12 Cognitive Biases that influence our Happiness

Cognitive biases are not new. They were introduced back in the 70’s by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman and they continue to be studied ever since by academics in the fields of cognitive science, social psychology and behavioral economics. The biases are especially relevant in life as they help us better understand and act accordingly, especially in this fast-moving world.

Biases twist our thinking, they drive us to assume the best in ourselves and the worst in other people. They influence our beliefs, retaining or ignoring information also affects the decisions and judgments we make every day in a wide range of areas, from social behavior, cognition, behavioral economics, education, management, healthcare, to even business and finance.

We’ve put together this infographic of 12 Cognitive biases, in the hope to expand your decision-making abilities regarding biases that influence our happiness. These 12 examples let us know what we should be aware of and what we can do to improve our state of happiness.

See more details below the infographic on how you can improve your happiness when you come across a bias. If you want to learn about more biases install the BrainyTab browser extension (for Chrome and Edge) and learn a new Cognitive Bias every time you open a new tab.

So, Here We Go.

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“We would all like to have a warning bell that rings loudly whenever we are about to make a serious error, but no such bell is available.”

- Daniel Kahneman

  1. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

    Fear experienced by individuals when faced with the thought that they might miss out on a social occasion, a new experience, a profitable investment or a satisfying event. This bias can bring a lot of stress in your life.

    a. Try noticing what you have rather than focusing on what you lack. Become more present by starting on a gratitude journal.

    b. Focus on real connection rather than social media (digital) connections.

    Read more about FOMO
  2. Anchoring

    Individuals depending too heavily on an initial piece of information offered to make subsequent judgments during decision making. This bias can affect your mood and also the choices we make.

    a. Mood Manipulation - induce a happy vs. sad mood, this may reduce the magnitude of anchoring.

    b. Giving enough consideration to all of the available information and all of the possible options before jumping to a decision (financial, purchases, daily preferences).

    Read more about Anchoring
  3. Curse of Knowledge

    Occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand. This bias can either give you a feeling of worry, fear, unease or overconfidence.

    a. Be aware of this bias and consider pacing yourself because if you think to go silent for months, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Talk to people more.

    b. Always give the benefit of the doubt, don’t assume that others know what you know.

    Read more about the Curse of Knowledge
  4. Hindsight Bias

    The tendency of people to overestimate their ability to have predicted an outcome that could not possibly have been predicted. This bias can lead to overconfidence and poor judgments.

    a. If you make a prediction, and that prediction comes true, don’t revise the odds because of the outcome. The probabilities haven’t changed.

    b. Make decisions based on what the data says is likely to happen, not based on what you think is going to happen - there is no magic crystal ball.

    Read more about Hindsight Bias
  5. Pessimism Bias

    The overestimation of the probabilities and harmful effects of negative future events. This bias can make you less successful in certain tasks and also limit potential positive outcomes.

    a. Avoid finding fault at every turn - acknowledge whatever difficult emotions you may be feeling, and make room for joy.

    b. Make a list of pros and cons about a situation, also, challenge yourself to come up with at least one “pro” for every “con” on your list.

    Read more about Pessimism Bias
  6. Dunning-Kruger Effect

    A bias whereby people who are incompetent at something are unable to recognize their own incompetence. This effect can have an impact on what people believe, the decisions they make, and the actions they take.

    a. Recognize your own mistakes or lack of skills.

    b. Be curious, open and committed to learning more about this effect in order to pinpoint it and combat the tendency to assume you’re an expert.

    Read more about Dunning-Kruger Effect
  7. Confirmation Bias

    People’s tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with their existing beliefs. This bias can affect your judgment and relationships.

    a. Make an effort to recognize the bias by working to be curious about opposing views and really listening to what others have to say and why.

    b. Learn to challenge yourself more in your everyday preconceptions - especially those areas where you feel very strongly about.

    Read more about Confirmation Bias
  8. Self-serving Bias

    A common habit of a person taking credit for positive events or outcomes, but blaming outside factors for negative events. This bias describes your overall sense of self-worth or personal value.

    a. Start to notice yourself doing them, and self-correct.

    b. Self-compassion - reduce defensiveness and increase your self-improvement motivation.

    Read more about Self-serving Bias
  9. Fundamental Attribution Error

    Individual's tendency to attribute another's actions to their character or personality. This bias makes us jump easily to bad conclusions that lead to a negative impact on business and life.

    a. Become Emotionally Intelligent. Put ourselves in the shoes of others and try to envision the pressures they might have faced.

    b. Acknowledge this bias and make the conscious effort to limit its effect.

    Read more about Fundamental Attribution Error
  10. Barnum Effect

    Happens when an individual believes that personality descriptions apply specifically to them. This effect will manipulate people.

    a. Resist temptation if you realise you are gullible.

    b. Do not be fooled easily - sometimes it’s good to have a dose of scepticism and ask for proof.

    Read more about Barnum Effect
  11. Social Proof

    Happens when people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behaviour in a given situation. This effect will lead you to uncertainty, persuasion and influence from others.

    a. When faced with an unfamiliar situation try not to be ignorant, always interpret a situation correctly and arrive at the inappropriate choice of action.

    b. If everyone’s doing it think twice if you should follow the herd.

    Read more about Social Proof
  12. Halo Effect

    The tendency for positive impressions of a person in one area to positively influence one's opinion or feelings in other areas. This effect will affect our perceptions but being conscious of this phenomenon can help you break such a subjective cycle.

    a. Never make quick judgments.

    b. Never take decisions based on past experience alone or limited information.

    Read more about Halo Effect

Understanding these biases is very helpful. Being aware of them it’s very important as they can teach us how easily we can be led to poor decisions but also how we can make wiser choices in order to live a life that is happier and more fulfilling.

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