If you want to learn all about cognitive bias, just turn on your television and watch pandemic decision making in real time. Somewhat frightening but educational.
Several readers suggested I should do an article on how pathetic Trump’s handing of the pandemic has been. I could, but I won’t. What’s the point? Society is too polarized to think clearly. On either side. It’s too bad, because the swamp really needed some draining. It’s the restocking plan that has not gone well.
So, anyway. For those of you who still enjoy rational thought, let’s talk about decision biases. We’ll do so in the context of government decision making. You see folks, our political leaders mostly live in a world of “decision-based evidence making.” Think about that for a moment. A politician will act on his or her decision biases and then look only for supporting evidence.
Our pandemic decision making has been fraught with bias, a swamp that has taken far to long to clean out.
The first two bias to take hold were commitment and confirmation bias. With confirmation bias, we tend to understand and interpret information (even data) in ways that confirm our existing beliefs. This is a form of self-deception that drives us towards information sources that already think the way we do, and vice-versa. With commitment bias, we tend to remain committed to our previous positions even when new information indicates this not to be rational. In business, this is the idea of losing money on every unit sold but trying to make it up in volume.
And then there is the dreaded in-group bias, what you might think of as the Fox News effect. Us versus them, folks, full speed ahead.
Pandemic Decision Making – Diving Deeper
So, why does it take so much effort to think rationally and react to new information? You can see why with pandemic decision making.
The two big change barriers are cognitive dissonance and anchoring bias. We tend to depend on initial information to anchor our thinking in a certain way, making it really hard to change our thinking when new information comes along. So, your sources of initial information have a huge effect – rightly or wrongly – on your subsequent thinking. You find this effect reinforced by your desire to maintain consistent beliefs over time.
If you want a deeper dive on decision bias, there are many sources.
Finally, my favorite: the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Simply stated, my friends, the very traits that indicate least competence in a task are those that make you least able to recognize your incompetence.