Archive for the ‘Cognitive Bias’ Category

“I’m awesome” “No, you’re not” – the Dunning-Kruger effect

May 14th, 2017 No comments

You’ve just taken an exam. As you push through the doors to the refreshing, cool air of the outside world, you feel a weight lift off your shoulders and a childish giddiness makes its way throughout your body. You feel like you really nailed that exam, which is quite the feat, given you only studied for about 30 minutes the night before. Flash-forward two weeks of vigorously patting yourself on the back, and your exam has been graded. Expecting the absolute best, you accept your graded exam from your professor with a flourish and find yourself just a tad confused to find your grade much lower than you expected.

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Let me google that for you

May 11th, 2017 1 comment

Everyone loves Google, right? All the information you could possibly ever want access to is right at your fingertips – quite literally – with search engines carried around in our pockets. Is Google making us smarter? It should, right? I mean it does provide us with an almost infinite amount of information. Well, here is where things get interesting. Recent studies have introduced a new concept known as The Google Effect, in which we are actually seeing some cognitive deficits caused by our dependency on Google and other search engines.

It is quite counterintuitive that these tools, which provide us with any information we want in just a matter of seconds, would actually hurt and not help our brain’s functioning ability. I know this is confusing, but let me put this into a real-life context that you might relate to a little more. 

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The Sixth (not so good) Sense: Always Expecting the Best, Always Getting the Worst

May 11th, 2017 No comments

Have you ever found yourself hoping for a positive outcome but instead, you end up experiencing the worst possible outcome? For example, you have endlessly searched and finally found the perfect shampoo to combat your excessive dandruff when all of a sudden, the company decides to discontinue the product. Or when you finally have the confidence to exchange phone numbers with your all-time crush and you call but not only did they give you a wrong number, it is a rejection hotline number. Even those times when you finally make a doctor’s appointment for that 3 week long pain you have endured and when you arrive, you feel as brand new as you have ever felt before. Reflecting on these instances make us wonder why expecting a certain outcome can result in, not only the opposite outcome, but also the worst one. Furthermore, the real question is why? Why does it feel as if the worst always happens? It almost feels as if we wished upon the bad. Read more…

Throwing good money after bad – Why We Fall Victim to the Sunk Cost Fallacy and How to Beat It

April 21st, 2017 3 comments

The Sunk Cost Fallacy

Imagine you have finally graduated from college, gotten a job, and are moving out of your childhood room at home and into a tiny room the size of a closet in the big city. You’re cleaning out and packing up old T-shirts you never wear, sweaters that went out of style years ago, and pants that just never fit you right. Since your apartment is so tiny, you barely have enough room in your closet to fit the clothes you wear on a daily basis, let alone all of these other items. But you love those T-shirts and the sweaters might come back into style and the pants might fit better if you lose some weight. So you pay for a storage unit in the city and waste some of your already very small income. Are you ever really going to wear those T-shirts again? Are those sweaters ever going to come back in style? You know the answer is probably not, and you also wouldn’t miss them if they were gone. But this is hard to remember when you think about all of the money you have already invested in all of these clothes. So instead, you choose to spend even more money on storage to keep items you spent money on in the past but don’t use in the present and probably won’t use in the future. What is this all about?

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You will remember this post. Why? Because it is weird!

April 20th, 2017 3 comments

Did you notice that you are actually very good at remembering weird things? You may not remember every single person who walks a dog on your way home because it’s just normal. However, if you see a dog walking a dog, you are very unlikely to forget the dogs. Why? Because they are weird! As you may expect, research supports that people do remember “weird” things better than normal things.

Von Restorff (1933) demonstrated that people are more likely to remember a distinctive item in a list of homogeneous items than in a list of heterogeneous items (e.g., an orange in a bunch of bananas vs. an orange in a bunch of different fruit). This is called the Von Restorff effect or the isolation effect.


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No One Ever Understands Me! Ah, yes – The Illusion of Transparency

April 17th, 2017 5 comments

Your world is collapsing. Okay no it’s not, but you are extremely stressed, sad, and worried. Do you ever wonder why no one seems to care that you’re feeling these things, or wish that someone would only ask if you’re okay? We all feel like this sometimes! But see, everybody else is not the problem. It’s not that people don’t care or don’t want to help (most likely); it’s just simply the fact that they may not even know you’re feeling like this. Think about the last time you gave a presentation in one of your classes or to a group of people. You’re standing up there, fidgeting, sweating, and you feel like your thoughts are jumbled and that your speech reflects that. You look into the crowd and see a girl twirling her hair – I must look like an idiot. You see someone else staring right at you and smiling – I must sound so stupid that he can’t help but stare directly at me. False! The girl is just bored and the boy is trying to show the teacher that he’s paying attention – so stop sweating and remain calm, you’re fine. These feelings are not out of the ordinary, in fact, they’re quite normal, and they can be attributed to the illusion of transparency.

That feeling when no one understands you…

The illusion of transparency is the tendency to believe that one’s internal states are more obvious to others than they actually are. We believe that the outside world can see and understand what we’re feeling and thinking, because we feel like we show our feelings, thoughts and emotions explicitly. However in reality, we overestimate the extent to which other people can tell what’s really going on inside our heads or what we’re trying to say. To test the theory out for yourself, watch this video to see if you can guess the song behind the rhythm! Or, to learn more about this illusion (after you’ve finished reading this post, of course), check out this other awesome post from the CogBlog! Additionally, many studies have been conducted that aim to look at why this happens, and to see if this illusion actually holds true when tested. Read more…

Why Students of Politics Should Leave The Colby Hill: The Confirmation Bias

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

On Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Although his supporters were excited and triumphant, many students at Colby College and other campuses across America were left shell-shocked. Students at Ivy League colleges – and those at Ivy League wannabees – seemed especially devastated and stunned. The website The College Fix reported numerous scenarios that suggested that students had expected a completely different outcome. Students at Columbia “came running, screaming, and crying to College Walk at 1 a.m.”, and insisted that exams be postponed so they could recover from the ordeal of Trump’s win. Over at Cornell, a completely bewildered student wandered around campus mid-election screaming, “How the f*** is he winning? What the f***?” At Yale, campus organizers actually organized a post-election group primal scream so students could “express their frustration productively.” Even at Penn, Trump’s alma mater, as it appeared likely that Trump would win the election, a student described a “miserable and most depressing scene.” How could some of the supposedly smartest students in America, schooled on the most elite of college campuses be so befuddled? What happened? Were they really so stupid, or had they perhaps been dumbed-down by their rarefied environment and media predictions based on misleading polls? To read more about misleading polls, click here. The answer can be found in a better understanding of the way the brain selects information from the environment, assesses it for accuracy, and reconciles it with pre-existing beliefs.

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The Show Must Go On! The War on Terrorism and Other Escalations of Commitment

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

We are in the 16th year of the War on Terrorism and less than a week ago, Donald Trump raised the stakes by bombing Syria and Afganistan. The Afganistan bombing was the largest non-nuclear bomb deployed in the history of the United States. When confronted about the decision, Trump referred to the dropping of the 30 ft, 11 ton MOAB (Massive Ordinance Air Blast) on an Islamic State cave and tunnel complex as a, “very, very successful mission.” Successful by what means? Every decision by the past three presidents to further engage in this war has led to more US soldier and Middle Eastern civilian casualties and we have made no steps towards conflict resolution. If this sort of stubborn persistence seems familiar that’s because this kind of error has been repeated throughout history as seen in the Vietnam War, in economic bailouts, and in failed skyscraper building projects just to name a few. This behavioral error is a cognitive bias known as escalation of commitment, or the Sunk Cost Effect.

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Everything has Feelings – Anthropomorphize with Me Now

April 17th, 2017 6 comments

Image result for pixar lamp

Do you often find yourself talking to things that can’t respond?  What about not wanting to throw things away because you’ll hurt their feelings?  Do you give inanimate objects personalities?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you anthropomorphize!  Also, your amygdala is probably fine and you probably aren’t autistic.

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Presidential election vs bilingualism: how does the framing effect impact our decision-making

April 17th, 2017 2 comments

Are you a logical thinker?

If you are a human being with a healthy dose of confidence, your answer is most likely “Sure, I use logic most of the time.” Or, if you identify with the virtue of modesty, you would probably say, “No guarantees, but I make my best effort.” If either of the above describes you, at one point or another the election of the 45th U.S. president was probably among the biggest mysteries for you. Hillary Clinton sure has had her fair share of scandals and hypocrisy, but so do many seasoned politicians; Donald Trump, on the other hand, had no political experience, more than a handful racist, sexist, and xenophobic statements, and multiple alleged sexual assaults. Furthermore, because of his background, Donald Trump is also under a lot of suspicion of abusing power for personal gains. How on earth did Donald Trump turn out so much more appealing in a presidential election?

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