Did you know you experience cognitive bias daily? For example, what’s your favorite color? Let’s pretend it’s purple. Without even hesitating, you tell me as much. It’s been purple for as long as you can remember (even if you don’t recall exactly why). 

That’s an example of cognitive bias, a pattern of thinking that occurs when your brain takes a shortcut based on a past experience, belief, or feeling. Because purple felt familiar to you, you chose that color—even if you’ve recently found yourself enamored with teal or navy. 

Aside from helping us come up with quick and easy conclusions about our favorite color, how else does cognitive bias affect our lives? Let’s immerse ourselves in the realm of cognitive bias, from what it is to how it impacts us and how we can make a conscious effort to reduce it in our daily lives. 

What Is Cognitive Bias? 

The human brain is a powerful anomaly. It can process 11 million bits of information every second. Our conscious minds, however, can only keep up with 40 to 50 pieces of information each second. Though significantly less than 11 million, that’s still an impressive amount of information to juggle at any given moment. 

To help us keep up with all the bits and pieces, our brains occasionally take cognitive shortcuts to simplify information processing. The result? Cognitive biases, which serve as a quick way for your mind to make judgments based on your past experiences. So, instead of contemplating what your favorite color may be based on how you’ve decorated your home recently or the color you can’t seem to get enough of in your wardrobe, you go with the easy answer—the cognitive bias. 

What Causes Cognitive Bias? 

Since your brain is consciously computing 40 to 50 items per second, it’s challenging to contemplate every single option 100% of the time, even when asked the simplest of questions. Even with an endless supply of information available to you at the swipe of a finger, sometimes it’s easier to take advantage of mental shortcuts. 

Some of the most common causes of cognitive bias include: 

  • Emotions 
    Your emotions and beliefs can affect your decision-making and thinking. 
  • Social influences 
    Many of your judgments and beliefs are formed by your friends and family. 
  • Cultural conditioning 
    Our upbringing and cultural background often shape our thinking and contribute to our biases. 
  • Availability of information 
    As we age, we learn new bits of information through our social circles, books, or deep dives on the internet. Sometimes, rather than learning more about a topic we’re familiar with, we rely on our memories to relay what we know and overestimate our understanding of that topic, denying ourselves a new viewpoint on a particular topic. 

How Does It Affect Our Lives? 

Cognitive bias affects more than just our go-to responses for our favorite color. Below, we highlight some of the typical effects that cognitive biases can have on our lives: 

  • Distorted perception 
    Biases can lead you to create your own perceptions of reality. For example, let’s say you’re at a social gathering with your friends. You meet a woman named Suzie, who tells you she’s a librarian. Based on your prior stereotypes of librarians, you assume she’s reserved and enjoys speaking about her latest reads. When she brings up a popular book, she confirms part of your stereotype. As you focus on this, you miss out on the other qualities Suzie has to offer, like her quick wit, sarcasm, and love for college football. 
  • Closed-mindedness 
    When you’ve developed a set of beliefs via social, familial, or societal norms, cognitive biases can lead to close-mindedness on a variety of topics, from the education system to religion, politics, and more. Rather than hearing out another person’s perspective on a specific topic, you may be more likely to immediately shut their ideas down or simply not listen to their side of an argument. 
  • Communication issues 
    Cognitive biases can make it more challenging to have effective communication with others. Sometimes one or both parties can misinterpret or misconstrue what the other is saying due to their own personal biases.  

Tips for Reducing Cognitive Bias in Our Daily Lives 

While not all cognitive biases have negative consequences, it’s helpful to be aware of any biases you have so you can overcome them with these tips

  • Accept that everyone has cognitive biases 
    The first step to surpassing cognitive biases is to acknowledge that you (and everyone else) have biases. This will help you become more open to understanding others’ perspectives. 
  • Experience life with a variety of people 
    When you’re at a work function or family gathering, the comfortable choice is to remain close to your friends. Instead, try branching out from your usual group and speaking with individuals from diverse backgrounds and who have different ways of viewing the world. 

Earn a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at The University of Texas Permian Basin 

Your interest in the human mind and behavior doesn’t have to end with cognitive bias. With a BA in psychology, you can take your fascination (and career) to the next level. With UTPB’s online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, you’ll gain a broad foundation of psychological science knowledge and written communication and research skills that can jump-start your career in a variety of industries. 

Our program is ranked among the Most Affordable Online Psychology Degree by STEPS and as one of the Top Online Bachelor of Psychology Degree Programs by TopCounselingSchools.org. If you’re ready to start your next chapter, apply today!