Throughout our lives as individuals we are often overwhelmed with decisions, no matter how minimal they are. The decisions made people every day are often dictated and influenced by many different things in their lives. Some of the factors that affect decision making include experiences past/present, individual differences, personal beliefs/values and most importantly personal biases. Flaws and errors in the way we process information of the world and how we make decisions in our lives is referred to as cognitive bias. These biases are able to affect our thought process and views in every area of their life, whether that may be in the workplace and/or home. Cognitive biases can influence and affect different areas of people’s lives including relationships, memory formation, personality and even beliefs. Each cognitive bias an individual experiences however, has a purpose which is to save our brain time and energy when processing excessive amounts of information. In result cognitive biases are a way of helping our brain adress, solve and/or deal with serious mental problems it is unable to manage/tackle.
One of the major problems cognitive biases help manage includes excessive overload of information being processed. Throughout our lives we encounter an excessive amount of information from the world to the point of which our brain cannot process it. Our brain uses several different methods of filtering information and keeping only that which is deemed necessary or useful in the future. As our brain is flooded and filled with information we tend to process/notice things that we’ve already encountered or loaded in our memory. In a sense our brain also tends to continuously inflate/magnify the importance of information which it finds unusual to us often skips/bypasses that of which it finds normal to us. The information we process is often weighed by its significance to us personally and as a result most often draws our attention to the details that reinforce our already established our beliefs/values and ignores that which contradicts our already instated beliefs about the world. As individuals we tend be bias ourselves, we note and observe the imperfections/flaws of others much more easily than we do our own which underlines our own subjections to biases.
The second problem cognitive bias addresses is the lack of meaning to information. As new information is constantly being filtered and loaded we then begin to connect previously known information with the new incoming stream being processed which allows us to updated our mental models/knowledge of the world around us. Since much of the information gets filtered out our brain unconsciously reconstructs the world’s information in an attempt of creating the full story through patterns and previous knowledge. As gaps of information increase our brain begins filling in the unknown with guesses or through trusted sources and in the end forgets which parts of information are real and which were filled in, examples of this include stereotypes and generality which result due to the gaps of information. Similar to filling in the gaps of information in our brain we also tend to build assumptions about the quality/value of things we experience based on our familiarity/liking of them. Through our subconscious our brain also tends to simplify probabilities and numbers in order to make it easier for our brain to process. Often when dealing with individuals our mind as a result of the lack of information in many cases tend to assume that other people know what we know and thus we begin to model their mind/knowledge after our own. Due to the lack of knowledge and information we capable of processing we often project our mindset and assumptions of the world onto the past, present and future.
The third problem cognitive bias addresses is the need/necessity to act fast. As new streams of information come in, our mind does its best to assess and analyze our ability to affect the situation, apply it to decisions, stimulate the future in order to be able to predict what might happen next and thus act on the new insight provided. In order to act on the new information we become confident in our ability to make an impact through our decisions which in reality creates overconfidence in our capabilities. As our mind is constrained by time and knowledge we tend to stay focused on the present moment relating to what is in front of us rather than the future which in return greatly impacts our thinking and knowledge of the world around us. Due to the need of acting fast as we receive information we tend to reduce mistakes by making decisions based on the risks involved, favoring options that seem simple over those which appear ambiguous or complicated.
The final and last problem cognitive bias addresses is the question of what our brain should remember regarding the vast overload of information it receives daily. As our brain get flood with information we are only capable of keeping bits and parts which then forces us to be constantly trading off between what we should remember and what we forget. During the process of choosing information based on importance we tend to reinforce certain memories and in many cases edit details without knowing. Often our brain reduces the information we gather into specific elements representing the whole story/event as a result of the overcrowding of information in our brain. As our brain analyzes information based on importance the way we store memories is also often dictated by how we experienced those memories. In result our brain is often just doing its best to comprehend the vast excess of information it is receiving and thus often has to swap/trade off information based on its importance and future use. Everyday our lives consist of constant decision making whether that may be going to work or staying in bed, we as individuals live through our choices and decisions which ultimately define our actions. As decision making is essentially a cognitive activity, individual characteristics, personality and experiences all affect and influence how we make decisions that being at home or in the workplace.