Memory bias: how selective recall can impact your memories

How many times have you forgotten where you left your keys? What about your friend who always seems to make up events that never happened? Do you ever struggle to remember someone’s name? Don’t worry—you’re not the only one. Our memory is far from perfect, and the memory bias effect doesn’t help. A memory bias …

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Exaggeration: why we make a mountain out of a molehill

In French, we have an expression to describe a situation where someone makes too much of a minor issue: “C’est une tempête dans un verre d’eau.” It’s a storm in a glass of water. Funnily enough, British people talk about a storm in a teacup, and American people talk about a tempest in a teapot. …

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Hindsight bias: the knew-it-all-along phenomenon

Historians and physicians alike are constantly fighting an invisible beast: the hindsight bias, also known as creeping determinism, which is the tendency for people to perceive past outcomes as having been more predictable than they actually were. Linked to distortions of our memories, the hindsight bias causes us to think we knew how an event …

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Jumping to conclusions: the inference-observation confusion

Do you know someone who always seems to jump to conclusions? While this behaviour may be more obvious in some people than in others, we are all prone to it. In fact, doctors themselves often jump to conclusions: “Most incorrect diagnoses are due to physicians’ misconceptions of their patients, not technical mistakes like a faulty …

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Survivorship bias: when failure gets forgotten

We all know that one chain-smoker who lived an old, healthy life. We read everyday about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg—college dropouts who started billion-dollar companies. And we tend to attribute our own success to dedication rather than luck. These are all typical examples of survivorship bias. Survivorship bias is a common bias …

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How to practice nuanced thinking

“This is just wrong.” How many times have you heard that phrase during a heated conversation? Such categorical statements never seem to help in coming to an agreement, or at least to create opportunities to learn. Whether at an interpersonal level or at a broader scale, a lack of nuanced thinking can have a significant …

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Negativity bias: how negative experiences cloud our judgement

Have you ever found yourself ruminating over a mistake you made a while ago? Replaying in your head a conversation that didn’t go so well? That’s the negativity bias at play: not only do we register negative stimuli more readily, but we also tend to dwell on these events for longer. In general, negative events …

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The empathy gap: why we underestimate the influence of emotions

“I would do much better!” you think, watching someone give a presentation about a topic you are familiar with. “I don’t feel like smoking at all, I’ll definitely be able to quit tomorrow,” you say with a relaxed tone, right after smoking a cigarette. These are illustrations of the empathy gap: our tendency to underestimate …

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The planning fallacy: why we underestimate how long a task will take

“I’ll be here in ten minutes,” you tell your friend on the phone while hurrying to put your shoes on. “We are aiming to launch at the end of year,” confidently tells the project manager to their boss. We have all been guilty of being overoptimistic when predicting how long a task will take. That’s …

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The Dunning–Kruger effect: you don’t know what you don’t know

Why do ignorant folks tend to overestimate the extent of their knowledge? How do incompetent people often seem to be unaware of how deficient their expertise is? Turns out, we are not very good at evaluating ourselves accurately. And one of the most obvious manifestations of this psychological deficiency is the Dunning–Kruger effect, the cognitive …

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