Archive for the ‘Cognitive Bias’ Category

Being Extremely Good-Looking Benefits You – the Halo Effect

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

Abercrombie & Fitch models

You must have seen these charming male models in front of some Abercrombie and Fitch stores, right? Did you stop for a picture with them? Did they successfully allure you to walk in the store and carry a huge shopping bag on your way out? Well, if these two scenarios sound familiar to you, then you probably should have known the power of looking good. It is not hard to find comparable examples besides Abercrombie and Fitch in the real life. The faces of attractive Hollywood celebrities have invaded everywhere such as on posters and televisions. Why? Because their pretty faces are worth millions of dollars and they can lead you to buy anything! One evidence from a report on Fashionista shows that Puma has successfully increased its sales by 7.6 percent just because it invited Rihanna to be its brand ambassador and women’s creative director. Although you might be immune to the commercials and argue that “a book should not be judged by its cover”, you cannot deny that these good-looking people can at least please your aesthetic taste. Therefore, let me remind you again – be extremely good-looking – because it is highly possible that your attractiveness gets rewarded.
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Why Have I Seen so Many Dogs Today… and Other Affects of the Attentional Bias

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

Have you ever experienced that feeling where you’re in a bad mood and everything seems to be going wrong that day? Maybe all of your friends seem mad at you, or maybe you do something embarrassing like trip, and you feel like everybody is making fun of you.  These are basic examples of the phenomenon that cognitive psychologists call the attentional bias.  This describes the tendency for you to focus on certain pictures, objects, facial expressions, or other stimuli in your environment based on what is dominating your thoughts.  This means that someone who is very interested in dogs and reads a lot of information about them, or looks at pictures of them online all the time, will tend to focus more on dogs in their environment.

Cute dogs

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Don’t mess with the flow, no, no! Stick to the status quo!

April 17th, 2017 4 comments

Have you been using the same brand of toothpaste for years? Do you tend to eat the same meal everyday? Do you stay on Facebook for hours simply because it was pulled up on your computer when you turned it on?

HSM “Stick to the status quo”

Each of these situations may be a result of your status quo bias. You’ve probably heard of the status quo, maybe that High School Musical song is floating around somewhere in your head. The status quo is exactly how Chad Danforth sang it- it’s the situation that you’re in at each moment in time. For you, right now, it is sitting (or laying or standing) at a computer (or mobile device!) and reading this awesome blog about the status quo bias (whoa your status quo is reading about the status quo!). Now the status quo bias deviates here from High School Musical. Where the Wildcats were singing for everyone to stick to the status quo because it was better or superior to any alternative, the status quo bias is basically sticking with the status quo because it’s the status quo. Read more…

Pleasure from your pain: how the empathy bias makes us kinda shitty people

April 17th, 2017 9 comments

Notice the girl wearing a white sweater in the background smiling as she walks by? Her reaction could be a perfect example of the empathy bias. (

Remember in high school when there was that clique (or whatever the boy-version of a clique would be called) that you absolutely loved to hate and got a sense of personal pleasure when something went wrong for a member of the group? For example, when the fourteen-year-old you watched that annoyingly pretty girl drop her lunch in the cafeteria all over her side-kick best friend, you laughed and felt a swell of happiness. I might not be able to claim that you’re not still a slightly shitty person for feeling that way, but cognitive psychology research may have some reasoning behind those feelings and it’s called the empathy bias.

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What Do High School Musical and the 2016 Election Have in Common? Status Quo Bias.

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

In 2006, the cast of High School Musical sang and danced wildly in a school cafeteria, preaching the benefits of “sticking to the status quo.” All the students in the school, jocks, academics, musicians, protested the changing school-climate, one becoming increasingly accepting and diverse. In the context of the movie, this song serves to characterize high schools across the nation as afraid of change and difference. To the audience’s later astonishment, the students are able to overcome this bias against change, celebrating the ultimate destruction of the rigid high school social borders! This heroic defeat of the high school caste system is certainly enjoyable for a generation of millennials, despite the 56% rotten tomatoes rating. Yet, in reality, change concerning social systems is far more difficult to achieve. In fact, the fear of change itself has its roots in cognitive and social psychology with what is called the status quo bias.

Simply put, the status quo bias is known as people’s general preference for the existing and enduring states of the world and one’s own self (Eidelman & Crandall, 2012). Most people would sooner their life stay static than to welcome a new change, big or small. This phenomenon is what often prevents people from people making life changes, such as moving to a new home, trying a new diet, or even changing their preferred route home from work. Because stasis provides feelings of comfort and security, most people tend to avoid the threats of a new change or lifestyle. In High School Musical, super basketball stud Troy Bolton fears that his newfound interest in musical theatre will threaten the social safety in his athletic passions. Similarly, Gabriella is scared that the spotlight of a career in theatre will bring unwanted attention to her quiet, scholarly ways. Both protagonists show a preference for their current social group out of worry that they might be thought less of by other students if they joined another one- a prime example of sticking to the status quo! Read more…

Handwashing, Heliocentrism, and Global Warming: To Reject or Accept?

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

How often do you wash your hands? The Center for Disease Control recommends hand washing in numerous scenarios, such as before, during, and after preparing food, before and after tending to someone who is sick, before and after treating a wound, after going to the bathroom, after touching animals, and the list goes on. Now I know it might seem a little ridiculous to wash your hands as often as it is recommended, but I am crossing my fingers that you at least understand why it is necessary. One of the first things we teach our children is to always wash their hands, and how to do so effectively (such as washing for the duration of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”… twice). If you don’t believe me when I say hand washing is deep-seated in our modern society, just look at the 3.1 billion dollar market for hand soaps (Nielsen 2016). I, for one, certainly get overwhelmed when I walk down the aisle at my local Target and have to choose between the exhaustive collection of soaps with which I can lather up. And if I don’t find any soap I like then I can make my way over to the various types of hand sanitizers nearby. We can credit Ignaz Semmelweis and his microbial discoveries for the normalization of hand washing in our culture, but can you imagine a world where we didn’t wash our hands? And even stranger – can you imagine rejecting the science behind it? 
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Don’t get too personal when it’s the all about the situation: Fundamental Attribution Error

April 17th, 2017 2 comments

Fundamental attribution error (FAE) happens when people explain a behavior of another by drawing inferences about that person’s personalities, dispositions or other internal factors, but underestimate the effect of external factors such as the situation the person is in (Gilbert & Malone, 1995). People often make FAE without realizing it. What are some examples of FAE, why does it happen so often outside our consciousness, and how can we avoid it?

Let’s starts with some examples of FAE. Imagine you are traveling in a foreign country and want to buy souvenirs for your friends. After careful selection, you decide to buy seventeen homemade chocolate bars; each is thirteen dollars. Before checking out, you want to know how much do they cost but you are having a hard time calculating the exact number. Then, the little boy next to you says immediately: “Hey, that’s 221 dollars.”

So you take out the cell phone to check the total; you find out that the boy is correct. What would be your first reaction? Read more…

What Was That? I Can’t Remember What You Said, I Was Next-In-Line

April 17th, 2017 5 comments

Don’t You Hate When This Happens?

Imagine it’s the first day of classes for the semester. Your professor announces to the class that you are going to do an icebreaker activity to get to know each other. There are probably a few groans and a little bit of fear from the shyer students. You must tell the class your name, your class year, where you’re from, and a fun fact about yourself. The dread sets in as you panic and try to think of something interesting. You don’t want everyone to think you’re lame or a weirdo. You spend the whole time everyone else is talking trying to think of what to say and finally it’s your turn: “Hi my name is Emma, I’m a senior, I’m from Jacksonville, Florida, and, um, I can lick my elbow.” Now you wonder if maybe that was a little too interesting, while the person sitting next to you talks about his summer in Belize. Or was it Nicaragua? You can’t really remember. Actually you can’t quite recall what any of the people before you said. You were so focused on your own presentation that you did not pay attention to what other people said. This is called the next-in-line effect.

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Decisions – Are you making any?

April 17th, 2017 No comments

Every day, we make countless numbers of small decisions. What am I going to wear? Where should I go for lunch? Should I sign up for a drama class next semester? If you are a high school or college student, you are probably making decisions about these all the time. Remember that time in the High School Musical (the movie), when the lead actor, Troy Bolton, had to make a really tough decision? He had an option to try something new and sing with his crush, Gabriella, but his basketball team, the Wildcats, asked him to stick to the stuff he already knew.

HSM 1 – Stick to The Status Quo

Now, if you love High School Musical as much as I do, you probably remember that the Wildcats asked Troy to stick to the status quo. Now, you probably always wanted to know, what is the status quo? Let me answer that for you.

Status Quo is a cognitive bias that occurs when a person is faced with a complex decision to make and chooses to stay in his or her current state, refraining from looking for an alternative. Our everyday decisions may be the result of the status quo bias.

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Why Do You See That Face that’s NOT There?

April 17th, 2017 2 comments

Have you ever thought about seeing things that are not there? At first glance, this might sound like a bizarre suggestion, unless, of course, you are a philosophically-minded person (if that’s the case, read Descartes!); it is, undoubtedly, a logical possibility, but it is a possibility that seems only able to realize itself in a movie, or in the cases of unfortunate people who suffer from mental disorders. But interestingly, this kind of phenomenon does exist in our life, and it is actually very prevalent, at least for seeing one particular object: faces.

I guess you are now suspicious, but recall the last time that you or someone else saw a face in the cloud; or this image showing a cute, smiling “face” on the back of a chair. But obviously, there is no face. Still, we recognize them, with considerable ease. This tendency for us to see faces where there aren’t any is called face pareidolia. And this tendency can be very useful, and sometimes even profitable. Artists, such as Giuseppe Arcimboldo, have long exploited this tendency to create some of the most imaginative paintings (to read more about Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s work, click here); moreover, the ability to see Virgin Mary in toast is obviously worth 28,000 dollars on eBay (to see the news, click here). Given its prevalence and potential value, it’s natural to wonder how exactly do we recognize those non-existent faces? Saddly, I don’t know the answer for sure, but perhaps I could offer some possible explanation.

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