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Dr. Tom Gilovich
Heuristics & Cognitive Biases

Our brains are powerhouse machines that are taking in extreme amount of information every second of the day. From the visuals, the feelings of our emotions, the taste of foods, the feeling of any ailments in our body, avoidance of pain and danger, sounds that may overstimulate us, along with keeping our bodies in balance and even the way the heat and cold affect us. All of these and much, much more all enter through our body to our brains for us to take in as information. How do our brains not get exhausted by all of this input of details? How is it that we don't end up blowing a fuse? One way we avoid a complete mechanical glitch is with the help of heuristics. Heuristics, as Dr. Gilovich explains, are mental short-cuts. We use heuristics in order to make quick decisions and judgment calls based on past experiences in our day-to-day lives. According to Dr. Gilovich, heuristics underlie many intuitive judgments under uncertainty. That is, in moments where we don't know what to do, instead of computing each hypothetical scenario out within those few seconds before making a decision, our brains rely on these mental shortcuts to be able to quickly act accordingly. (It's also one to note that although heuristics may work most of the time, they aren't exceptional responses to problems of excessive complexity.)

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Cognitive biases flow parallel with heuristics; however, these are what may result when heuristics are employed. To emphasize clearly, heuristics are not 100% correct all the time. Unfortunately, because of the errors that may come from heuristics, biases can be detrimental in certain situations. The anchoring bias is the tendency for us to be overinfluenced by the initial information that we hear. For example, when you go to negotiate the purchase of a car, you tend to make your decisions depending on what that initial jumping off point was. If the salesperson gives you an estimate of $30,000 for the car, you use that number to start negotiating down however much. We use this bias in other areas of our lives as well interchangeably. 

"What's one way to navigate heuristics and biases effectively? 
Education."

 

It seems like heuristics are meant to be used for good, but sometimes they can be disadvantageous when they turn into biases. What's interesting, is that we can't avoid our brain from generating heuristics and thus biases. Dr. Gilovich and I discuss the different elements of both of these concepts and how we may be able to navigate them effectively. What's one way, you may ask? Education. The awareness that these psychological phenomena exist is the first step in taking control of your own mind and the types of biases that it creates without us knowing. This episode is your first step in understanding and taking (some!) control of your cognitive biases. Click the link below to hear more from my conversation with Dr. Tom Gilovich.

(Recorded July 2021.)

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Listen Below

Dr. Tom Gilovich: Heuristics & Cognitive Biases
00:00 / 31:56

Books by Dr. Gilovich

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