cognitive bias and the laughing goldfish

A friend submitted this list of cognitive biases. Following the list is my imperfect retelling of a favorite Chuang Tzu tale.

1. Bandwagon effect - the tendency to do (or believe) things
because many other people do (or believe) the same. Related
to groupthink, herd behaviour, and manias. Carl Jung pioneered
the idea of the collective unconscious which is considered by
Jungian psychologists to be responsible for this cognitive bias.
2. Bias blind spot - the tendency not to compensate for one’s
own cognitive biases.
3. Choice-supportive bias - the tendency to remember one’s
choices as better than they actually were.
4. Confirmation bias - the tendency to search for or interpret
information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.
5. Congruence bias - the tendency to test hypotheses exclusively
through direct testing.
6. Contrast effect - the enhancement or diminishment of a weight
or other measurement when compared with recently observed
contrasting object.
7. Déformation professionnelle - the tendency to look at things
according to the conventions of one’s own profession, forgetting any
broader point of view.
8. Disconfirmation bias - the tendency for people to extend critical
scrutiny to information which contradicts their prior beliefs and uncritically
accept information that is congruent with their prior beliefs.
9. Endowment effect - the tendency for people to value something more
as soon as they own it.
10. Focusing effect - prediction bias occurring when people place too
much importance on one aspect of an event; causes error in accurately
predicting the utility of a future outcome.
11. Hyperbolic discounting - the tendency for people to have a stronger
preference for more immediate payoffs relative to later payoffs, the closer
to the present both payoffs are.
12. Illusion of control - the tendency for human beings to believe they
can control or at least influence outcomes which they clearly cannot.
13. Impact bias - the tendency for people to overestimate the length or
the intensity of the impact of future feeling states.
14. Information bias - the tendency to seek information even when it
cannot affect action.
15. Loss aversion - the tendency for people to strongly prefer avoiding
losses over acquiring gains (see also sunk cost effects)
16. Neglect of probability - the tendency to completely disregard
probability when making a decision under uncertainty.
17. Mere exposure effect - the tendency for people to express undue
liking for things merely because they are familiar with them.
18. Omission bias - The tendency to judge harmful actions as worse,
or less moral, than equally harmful omissions (inactions).
19. Outcome bias - the tendency to judge a decision by its eventual
outcome instead of based on the quality of the decision at the time it
was made.
20. Planning fallacy - the tendency to underestimate task-completion
21. Post-purchase rationalization - the tendency to persuade oneself
through rational argument that a purchase was a good value.
22. Pseudocertainty effect - the tendency to make risk-averse choices
if the expected outcome is positive, but make risk-seeking choices to
avoid negative outcomes.
23. Selective perception - the tendency for expectations to affect
24. Status quo bias - the tendency for people to like things to stay
relatively the same.
25. Von Restorff effect - the tendency for an item that “stands out like
a sore thumb” to be more likely to be remembered than other items.
26. Zero-risk bias - preference for reducing a small risk to zero over a
greater reduction in a larger risk.


Two old friends were crossing a bridge over a pond. One paused to look down, and noticed a school of goldfish swimming below. "Look, how those goldfish are playing and laughing!" His friend glanced down, nodded, and then replied, "How is it you know these fish are experiencing some form of happiness? Maybe they are simply swimming in the fashion that such fish swim, not happy, but neutral, and that you are imagining their emotion? You can never ask a fish! Does it not seem foolish to you to ascribe human feelings to simple ceatures?"

His friend thought about this for a little while, peered one more time at the fish below, and then, waving his friend forward on their walk mentioned, "I know those fish are happy because I, too, have known happiness."


The Chuang Tzu story places hope in the idea that there is a Universality about which we all relate.
The list of biases, on the other hand, proves it ain't always so easy.

1 comment:

T said...

hey jase, i liked this. i cited your Chuang Tzu tale for my class today. many thanks for finding it and putting out there. i really like the way you've used the blog, at least how i've explored your blog so far, in this way of a particular idea, like "taxonomy", or how one of your links is to a blog that is just about maps. it makes the form more useful, or effective in some sense for a person on the net.