But that's crazy! Cognitive bias in decision-making


What are cognitive biases?

Experiments in cognitive science and social psychology have revealed a wide variety of biases in areas such as statistical reasoning, social attribution and memory. It’s argued these biases are common to all human beings, and some have been demonstrated to hold across very different cultures.

Cognitive biases were first identified by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. They claim biases are artifacts of problem-solving heuristics humans use. Recent work on cognition in other animal species reveals that some cognitive biases are not unique to humans, suggesting an evolutionary origin.

Whatever the mechanisms behind cognitive bias, we have good data to suggest that under some circumstances we all have a tendency to react in a way that seems surprising when viewed from a more detached perspective.

Constant over-commitment

I’ve noticed a pattern in which people regularly over-commit to work and consequently regularly under-deliver, and don’t seem able to break the cycle. In fact, their actions seem to perpetuate the cycle.

Why you should plan iteratively

When you estimate how long something will take, about half the time it should be done early or on time. Almost anyone reading this will know things are rarely done sooner than expected, especially if they’re difficult. People have been shown experimentally to be poor estimators, with a marked bias towards underestimation of time required to complete tasks.


Trust has been cropping up as a topic a bit for me recently. Benjamin Mitchell has just reviewed “The Art of Deception”, Kevin Mitnick’s book on social engineering, we talked about trust and identity at XTC last night, and it has recently cropped up as a question posed by Dale Emery on the Resistance as a Resource mailing list.

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