Sensible thinking takes effort, preparation, and reliable sources. On the other hand, we tend to let our fears, likes and dislikes guide us; we don’t question our ideas. This is especially true when they’re dealing with something we’ve already thought about. We just approve or disapprove of them depending on how we feel. This is a clear example of how cognitive biases work.
During a variety of activities in which people struggle for positions of power, cognitive biases are often used to manipulate the opinions of others. For example, the belief is spread that what is good for a minority is also good for the majority, or vice versa.
Let us now look at five such control mechanisms.
This is one of the most destructive cognitive distortions because it leads to injustice. It consists of a simplified but incorrect interpretation of the principle of action and reaction. We assume that nothing can happen to us if we haven’t done anything to provoke it.
We are convinced that someone who is in a bad situation deserves it. The poor would be guilty of their poverty, the victims would be guilty of the aggression they suffered, and the sick would be guilty of their pain.
This is a common cognitive bias because it gives us the pleasant illusion of being part of a controllable world. It makes us believe that there is always something we can do to avoid ending up like the poor, the victims and the sick. This distortion has an intrinsic reinforcement that sustains it.
The verification mistake is to only acknowledge the facts that confirm our already established beliefs. We do not evaluate the source of this information, nor do we compare it with others, we just firmly believe in it. Perhaps this distortion also has an intrinsic reinforcement: it favors our cognitive economy, at least in the beginning.
In general, such beliefs are passed on (from friends, colleagues, parents) and never challenged. We may not even know the other side, but assume that the beliefs that have been conveyed to us must be the right ones. Therefore, the only data we believe to be valid are those that support your and our way of thinking.
This cognitive bias is directly related to the media. It has to do with the tendency to come to different conclusions depending on how we access certain information or how it is presented to us.
This is a classic example: “More than 30% of the population reject the position of Chancellor.” Instead of saying that 70% of the population agrees, or at least doesn’t disagree, the focus is on disagreement, which gives it a negative rather than a positive connotation.
This cognitive bias refers to the tendency to make connections between two variables even when there is no correlation. This creates an association between two realities made up of invalid elements. The illusory context generally tries to cover up reality and create an illusion of truth.
A very common example of this is that facts are associated with specific, unrelated events. Saying, for example, that the economy was booming when Minister XY was in charge, without mentioning that at the same time global demand for a local product was increasing. The reason for the progress was not the minister, but the worldwide development of demand. In this way, entire sections of the population can be assigned responsibility for events in which they had no part whatsoever.
This is one of the most damaging cognitive biases because it is the cause of intolerance. It consists in keeping us attached to our ideas as if they were an essential part of us as individuals.
On the one hand, we fear that we will have to let go of something that we consider “ours”. We see this as a loss. On the other hand, changing your mind means a lot of effort. Breaking away from what we believe in and allowing other ways of thinking is a laborious process. But the result could be fascinating.
Therefore, it is important to be aware of the cognitive biases so that we can identify them and regulate their impact on our thoughts. It is essential to research if we want to be well informed. We should be careful to only trust reliable sources.
We can never be free from cognitive bias. But we can take some of their power away from them.