Present bias: how instant gratification impacts your long-term goals

How many times have you heard the phrases “live for the moment”, “you only live once”, or “seize the day”? This advice may sound great for adding some spontaneity to your life, but seizing short-term opportunities can lead you to settle for a small present reward rather than wait for a larger future reward. This …

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The dangers of apophenia: not everything happens for a reason

Humans love patterns. Sometimes that’s helpful, but other times… Not so much. Apophenia is the common tendency to detect patterns that do not exist. Also known as “patternicity”, apophenia occurs when we try to make predictions, or seek answers, based on unrelated events. Apophenia can lead to poor decision-making. For instance, many people choose their …

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The danger of emotional reasoning and using our emotions as proof

Cognitive distortions are thought patterns that can affect our perception of reality. One such distortion is emotional reasoning. This is a thought pattern in which our emotional reactions, or our feelings, lead us to believe that something is true even when the empirical evidence tells us otherwise.  Emotional reasoning is very common in the workplace. …

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Gratitude traps: why we should be critical of gratefulness

Gratitude is an efficient way to increase the appreciation we have for the things that we could otherwise take for granted. Practising gratitude might make us feel more thankful for the circumstances we find ourselves in, such as where we live, the work we do, the people we have in our lives, and the gifts …

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Mental filtering: when we focus on negative details

Do you tend to focus on negative details? Mental filtering is a cognitive distortion that leads us to magnify the negative details of a situation, while filtering out the positives. Also known as selective abstraction, this bias for dwelling on your shortcomings could lead you to focus on one piece of negative feedback, while disregarding …

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Social proof: is there always safety in numbers?

When faced with a difficult decision, copying the actions of others can feel reassuring. We are social animals, and following the crowd can lead us to believe that we are benefitting from the wisdom of others. This may be especially true if we emulate the behaviour of those we consider to be authority figures. This …

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Belief perseverance: why we cling on to old ideas

Our beliefs can help us navigate the world around us. However, when our beliefs do not line up with reality, they can cause harm to ourselves and others. Also, these beliefs can become so deeply ingrained that they become very challenging to unlearn, even when presented with new information. This phenomenon is called belief perseverance. …

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Attentional bias: the invisible puppeteer behind our decisions

Most people feel that, within the constraints they need to navigate, they are in control of their decisions. But we often automatically follow a train of thought or an external cue without noticing the selective factors in our attention. This phenomenon is called the attentional bias, and it affects many of the decisions we make. …

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Authority bias: when we irrationally trust the judgement of experts

Whether it’s a doctor, a financial advisor, or a manager, we sometimes apply whatever an authority figure tells us to do, despite knowing that their recommended approach is inefficient, wrong, and potentially even dangerous. Why is that? One explanation is the authority bias. The authority bias is our tendency to be more influenced by the …

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