How understanding natural biases can make you a better colleague.

Everyone uses cognitive biases to speed up their decision making process. They are as old as decision making itself. The most common bias is "confirmation bias." It's a great description for the tendency of people to blindly accept evidence that supports their theory, but hold in great skepticism anything that undermines their theory. If you've ever read something in order to prove your point in an argument, then you're most likely guilty of confirmation bias.

Why does this matter to you? After all you're a marketer, an entrepreneur or a web guy, not a researcher. It's important because everyone is a decision maker at some point in their work and if you're not aware of the biases that effect you, then you can't be proactive in overcoming them.

It's easy to be a skeptic of other people's work, but it's much harder to be a skeptic of your own ideas. So next time you find yourself debating with a business colleague, stop and step back for a moment. Take a look and see if you're really employing critical thinking, or merely looking for evidence that confirms your own point of view.

Written by Adam Harrell on June 26, 2009


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Chris says:

Bokardo is a great guy to follow. He found my personal blog sometime back and I've been stalking him on Twitter since =]. His ideas on social media and design are worth listening to.

Hey Zelda,

Thanks for stopping by. The presentation did a great job identifying the various biases. It's also nice to see someone point out how understanding biases can help in the interface design decision making process.

Joshua Porter gave a particularly compelling presentation on this at D:Construct 2008:

Luke says:

Good post - I might read Carl's book suggestion to prove my point!

Carl says:

You are right when you said we are “merely looking for evidence that confirms your own point of view.” We want to win and be right and we want to be around people who thing the way we do. This is part of survival; you can understand this thinking by understanding “self” there is a recent study done on this subject, you can read about it, get a copy of The Power of Self Seperation you will enjoy reading it.

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Adam Harrell