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Archive for the ‘Cognitive Bias’ Category

Beyond the black box: Unpacking performative activism

December 8th, 2020 No comments

If you didn’t see a single black square in your timeline, feed, dashboard, or any social media or news platform this summer—well, I’m not sure whether I’d be impressed or horrified. On June 2nd, Instagram feeds and social media platforms were flooded with black squares. Most of these were captioned with #BlackOutTuesday. Some included resources to take action through links to donate, sign petitions, or inform people about current issues. And then there were the ones captioned with #BlackLivesMatter or #BLM.

Black lives matter. That’s not up for debate. Yet the inclusion of hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #BLM in the captions of posts with black squares, whether well-intentioned or not, was entirely destructive.  Read more…

When ‘Just Cheering Up’ Isn’t Possible- the cognitions behind depression may be the key to ending misconceptions

December 7th, 2020 No comments

Your friend reveals to you that she suffers from depression. When she hangs out with you and your other friends, she always sees things negatively and seems to bring the whole group down. Why can’t she just think positive? Does she even have a real condition? Everyone gets sad sometimes. You don’t understand why she can’t just cheer up, especially because you always eventually cheer up when you’re sad. You’re confused because there is nothing she needs to be sad about anyways; she has a good life! Besides, it’s all in her head. She just needs to change her mindset. 

Depressed people are all too used to the unhelpful advice to ‘just cheer up.’ The cognitive processes behind depression mean that those suffering from it are simply unable to ‘just cheer up.’ They would cheer up if they were able to.

A multitude of misconceptions surround depression. The stigma surrounding depression often leaves individuals who suffer from it to be perceived as lazy, negative, sad, and dramatic. Depression can be very difficult to understand for those who have not suffered from it. This leads to the perpetuation of misconceptions and a lack of the effective support that depressed individuals need grately. If you’ve ever had thoughts similar to the ones above about someone in your life, while you may have good intentions and want them to get better, you are lacking a basic understanding of depression itself and the cognitive processes behind it. Here’s the thing: Platitudes such as, ‘just think positive!’ ‘snap out of it!’ and ‘you need to cheer up!,’ which are all too commonly used as advice for depressed people, completely miss the mark. Because of the various cognitive processes underlying depression, it is impossible for depressed individuals to fix the issue in the ways that are suggested. It’s not that simple. Believe me, if it was that simple, they would surely be free of their depression by now.

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Are You Smarter Than A Doctor? The Dunning-Kruger Effect and Vaccine Misinformation

December 7th, 2020 No comments

Picture this: it’s a beautiful fall day in elementary school, and one day after you get home from school, your parents tell you to get in the car because you have a doctor’s appointment. You’re not very excited, but you have no choice but to go along with them. When you arrive, you receive some dreadful news from the doctor: it’s time for you to get your seasonal flu shot! You’re terrified, but your parents tell you to close your eyes and that it will be over quickly, and that getting a shot isn’t nearly as bad as getting the flu later on. You hold your breath, and before you know it, you’re out the door with a Pokémon band-aid on your arm and a lollipop in your mouth.

For most Americans, receiving vaccinations against diseases such as the seasonal flu or measles is a common and expected practice. In fact, vaccines are often considered to be one of the greatest medical achievements of the 20thcentury. Although vaccines have been heralded as a medical breakthrough, anti-vaccination sentiments are by no means a new phenomenon. In the past decade or so, this anti-vaccination movement has grown tremendously on the internet. The public’s attitude towards vaccines is shaped by multiple factors, such as scientific, political, and psychological factors, as well as people’s levels of knowledge and exposure to misinformation. Despite overwhelming clinical evidence that vaccinations are safe and effective, there is still a community that stands strong in their beliefs in misconceptions about vaccines. People who hold these beliefs are generally known as “anti-vaxxers“.

Anti-vaxxer’s lack of metacognitive awareness leads often leads them to disregard science in favor of their own opinions.

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“Stocks only go up, $TSLA to the moon” — Elon Musk (probably)

December 3rd, 2020 No comments
A graph of $TSLA (Tesla Inc.) stock price going up.

A graph of $TSLA (Tesla Inc.) stock price going up.

I hope that you haven’t put all your life savings on $TSLA after seeing that juicy green graph. Hopefully, you won’t open the Robinhood app on your phone before reading this article. Even if you are one of the teenagers contributing to Robinhood’s 4.3 million daily average trades, I suggest you read this post before you go make another trade from your (or worse, your mom’s) life savings.

Here is a simple game for you. From what you can observe in the graph above, where do you think Tesla stock will go next. Would you buy some stocks? What about if you already had some Tesla stock. Would you hold, buy more, or sell? There is a lot of information missing from the graph, however, this type of graph remains the most important visual information that everyone sees first when. If you are a reader of this blog, you can probably guess that our primate brain isn’t as rational as we would like it to be!

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When you read this, you will only look out for what confirms your prior beliefs

November 28th, 2020 No comments

Or not. But probably not. Science has demonstrated that we have a natural tendency to search for and interpret information in a way that only confirms our prior beliefs or values. Ever been doing research for a paper in a class and only searched for information and evidence that supports your argument? Now answer this. While doing that, have you ever just let yourself skip by that evidence and those examples that went against your paper thesis? I know I have. What you probably didn’t realize, though, is that what you’re doing is exhibiting what is known as confirmation bias. And you might think big deal, right? Well, it kind of is. When you ignored those counterarguments and that contradictory evidence, you were arguing through a lens that only took into account one side of the story and one version of the truth. In order to make a complete and impartial argument we must consider all of the evidence and all of the facts. Confirmation bias hinders our ability to do this. And unfortunately, we have no defense to confirmation bias–it’s an automatic process that occurs without us even being aware of it happening. Understanding the nature of confirmation bias and its effects, however, can help reduce the detrimental effects it is known to have on us and society. 

This is what confirmation bias turns our research process into without us even realizing it!

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Categories: Cognitive Bias, Education Tags:

Lower that cynical finger…and consider pointing it at yourself!

November 25th, 2020 No comments

Yep, we are talking about you!

I’m sure we are all accustomed to that tingling power-trip feeling of blaming all of our personal and world problems on others. Heck no, global warming is not your fault.
Heck no, you aren’t the reason why that last relationship didn’t work out. Of course your lab partner is going to take more credit for that assignment than he or she actually deserves… Right? Now I know this might be a little distressing to hear, but this whole cynical worldview you’ve got going on… It’s not a great look. Not only is it inaccurate, but it’s making you look a little bit like a Debby Downer. Now hear me out, prove to me you aren’t a hopeless cynic by fighting the assumption that this post is a jumble of nonsense written by a college student. I can give you a second to decide if you want to give this a shot…

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The Rise of Opinionated News Sources: How Confirmation Bias is Affecting How We Vote

November 24th, 2020 No comments

As Donald Trump’s four year term is coming to a close, people all over the United States–and the world– were more anxious than ever to see who would win the election. Would Trump be rewarded with a second term, or would former Vice-President Joe Biden get enough votes to make Trump the first one-term President since Clinton beat Bush in 1992? Regardless of the fact that Biden won, one thing is clear: our country seems to be more politically divided than ever before. The rise of biased news sources combined with the power of confirmation bias have contributed to much of our current, incredibly-divided, political climate.

Walter Cronkite, a retired CBS news anchor who was widely trusted by Middle America.

Before cable and internet news, the three television networks in the United States were ABC, CBS, and NBC. Because they had to appeal to very broad and diverse audiences, these networks relayed the news of the day fairly objectively, and it was challenging to decipher whether news anchors, such as Walter Cronkite, were liberal or conservative based on their reporting (Poniewozik). Over the last 30 years, with the rise of cable and internet news, news sources have become increasingly more biased and focused on niche audiences. These networks are supplying the public with opinionated accounts of what’s going on instead of seeking to simply report objective facts (Pearson). Those who follow the news know that many networks and sites like CNN, the Atlantic, the Daily Beast, and MSNBC are left-leaning news sources, and thus share the news from a more liberal point of view. The opposite is true for networks like Fox News, Breitbart and the National Review, which are right leaning and promote more conservative opinions, as expressed through the data found by AllSides–a Media Bias chart that collects information from people across the political spectrum through blind bias surveys, editorial reviews, independent reviews, and third party data.
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Don’t Let Your Anchor Control Your Shopping: The Anchoring Bias

November 23rd, 2020 No comments

Imagine walking into a clothing store before the holidays. You are on the lookout for a long-sleeved shirt to wear to a dinner party next week but do not have much time due to a haircut appointment in half an hour. While driving there you thought this would be a fairly quick and easy task, but now, while wedged between a mother and daughter, you are repeatedly asking yourself why you didn’t just buy something online. You don’t

Clothing rack during the holidays.

have time for this! Once you finally locate the long-sleeved clothing rack and maneuver through all of the people, you find the perfect black long-sleeved shirt. You hold up the shirt to get a better look and glance down at the price tag. The first two numbers on the price tag are two and nine which are followed by two small nine’s, but you only fixate on the first two and nine. You decide that $29 is too expensive which is fine because the material seems like it would be itchy anyway. As you are putting the shirt back, you notice a big red sign above the clothing rack. The sign reads “50% off” in the middle with sixty dollars crossed out on the top followed by the new price of 29.99 dollars on the bottom. You freak out while thinking to yourself: “it used to be 60 dollars! I must get this!” It becomes a no-brainer and you immediately walk towards the cash register completely forgetting about the possibility of the material being terribly itchy. 

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Do They Actually Want Me?: The Sexual Overperception Bias

November 22nd, 2020 No comments

Have you ever interacted with someone, say at a party, and for you its simply a friendly interaction; a few jokes, some nods, and a couple of smiles but at some point in the conversation it becomes clear the other person thought that those jokes, nods, and smiles were indicative of something more sexual and intimate? If you’ve answered yes to this question, please call 1-800-Sexual Overperception Bias because that’s what just happened.

What is the Sexual Overperception Bias?

The Sexual Overperception Bias is the tendency to believe that others are more sexually interested in you than they actually are. As in the example above the other person in that conversation overestimated the sexual interest when there wasn’t any. Interestingly, this tendency is more common in men than in women. This occurs for many reasons across many different situations.

Coworkers talking over coffee in the breakroom. A situation where the bias may occur. Source: https://detroit.cbslocal.com/2014/08/07/breakrooms-keeping-your-employees-caffeinated-content-2/

            Often times people are able to think of a friend who thinks everyone they interact with is flirting with them and wants a sexual relationship of some sort. It often looks like automatically believing every time someone offers a smile this friend concludes that the person has promiscuous intentions. This bias occurs in party situations, with staff at restaurants and hotels, the cashier at the grocery store, or amongst coworkers in the office. One instance may occur in the workplace where one coworker thinks another coworker is sexually interested in them because this coworker always offers to make them a cup of coffee. When the bias occurs in this situation, it is very likely that the work environment will become tense and uncomfortable. Or it may happen at a restaurant where the waiter’s hospitality is thought of as flirtatious often resulting in discomfort for the waiter while attending to this guest. The bias is also heavily present in romantic comedies, reality television shows, and sitcoms as a cliche for the overconfident guy who often states, “I think she wants me”. But why does this bias even happen, and can it be avoided?

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Categories: Cognitive Bias Tags:

Your Horoscope for Today: You may download or delete a horoscope app on your phone

November 21st, 2020 No comments

Real footage of exhausted, Gen Z college kids acting flabbergast at zodiacs predicting their lives

Link to meme:https://images.app.goo.gl/Y4Kmu1R9xujSdmeP9

Maybe you have read somewhere that those who take astrology seriously are suckers(the meme world has verified this information as you can see in the image next to the this post) and are prone to a variety of biases. Maybe you yourself have made fun of that one friend in the group who seems to take the “star sign thing” way too seriously and who is ready to choose a life partner by their chart compatibility. And maybe despite that, like me and countless other people, when you come across a “reading” or a horoscope prediction, you read every word intently to see if it matches you. And maybe you have done this a few times: sucked your teeth when you read the horoscope for a day that has just ended but see that not a single thing on it lines up with the day you have just had. And maybe after that, you swore never to read the damn things again. But if I checked right now, it has probably just been a few days since you opened the notifications from an astrology app like Costar or ran a google search for character traits of others like you who were born within the month-long interval that determines your shared “sun sign. Life right now is so unpredictable so we hold on to sources of predictions because SOME idea of what is going to happen would be nice. But astrology’s hold is not due to that reason alone. Humans are susceptible to many biases in our thinking and in this blog post, I’ll break down our shared mental weak links that have even science majors picking out partners and friends according to their sun sign compatibility.

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