Brief on biases

Biases are something to be aware of in any analysis.

Early in our life we start to shape our comprehension of the world through our own perception. We tend to see the colours that suit and soothe us. We look for things that make sense quickly and tend to avoid those that take time. We are interested in something that “feels right” and ignore anything that causes some level of discomfort.

All of these are just a result of our views, opinions or putting it simply, are our biases.

A good example of biases or different views on the world is the description of what pattern someone sees on the bright side of the moon. One will see a rabbit there, when another will only picture a face.

This simple example is a good demonstration of biases or different world perceptions we have. The rough list of biases includes the following:

  1. Anchoring to one piece of information
  2. Overestimation or underestimation
  3. Attributional bias or incorrect interpretation of people’s behaviours
  4. Patternicity or recognition of patterns in random events

The list can be certainly expanded, but this would also be a bias, as is the current representation.

Tversky and Kahnemann summarised the big topic of biases very well in Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Bias. Everything seems to boil down to people using limited or specific information (as they see it being relevant) to make decisions, which in return leads to systematic errors and wrong decisions.

Hence, whatever analysis we do, whatever decisions we make and whenever we take actions, we should note the biases and construct our processes to mitigate biases and address systematic errors.

Information sources and additional reading:

  1. Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases, A. Tversky, D. Kahneman, Science, New Series, Vol. 185, No. 4157, pp. 1124-1131, link
  2. Beyond Bias – Neuroscience research shows how new organizational practices can shift ingrained thinking, H. Grant Halvorson, D. Rock, link
  3. 20 Cognitive Biases that screw up your decisions, S. Lee, Business Insider, Aug 2015, link

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