12 MOST FREQUENT cognitive distortions

12 cognitive distortions inherited from the ancestors of humanity and giving us a rational perception of reality




The human brain is able to perform 1016 operations per second. No computer on a volume of work can not. But while the human brain - is very unreliable device.

Basic Calculator can perform mathematical calculations a thousand times rather than a person. Our memories are subjective, patchy and variable. Our perception and processing of reality are subject to many small interferences.

Inaccuracies and errors in our perception called cognitive distortions. They appeared out of nowhere - each caused severe evolutionary necessity.


To survive, our ancestors had to think of how you can quickly and effectively. Our minds still has a tendency to choose the shortest way to the evaluation of the new information. Such reductions mental path called heuristics. On the one hand, heuristics help us to make quick decisions in difficult situations. On the other - each of heuristics results in the fact that we focus only on one aspect of a complex problem and is unable to clearly and adequately assess the environmental situation. Here are the twelve most common heuristics.

1. Confirmation Bias
We are happy to agree with those people who are willing to agree with us. We go to the sites, which is dominated by the political views close to us, and our friends are likely to share our tastes and beliefs. We try to avoid individuals, groups and news sites, which can cause to doubt the correctness of our position in life.

American psychologist and behaviorist Burres Frederic Skinner called this phenomenon of cognitive dissonance. People do not like when their minds are facing conflicting view: values, ideas, beliefs, emotions. To get rid of a conflict between settings, we unconsciously looking for the point of view of those who live in harmony with our views.

The views and opinions that threaten our world view, are ignored or rejected. With the advent of the Internet effect is only intensified confirmation bias: to find a group of people, which is always and everywhere will agree with you, and now is able to practically everyone.

2. The distortion in favor of the group
This effect is similar to the confirmation bias. We tend to agree with the opinion of the people we believe members of their group, and reject the views of people from other groups.

This is a manifestation of our most primitive tendencies. We strive to be at one with the members of our tribe. At the level of the neurobiology of this behavior is related to the neurotransmitter oxytocin. It is a hormone of the hypothalamus, has a powerful impact on the psycho-emotional sphere of man. Immediately after birth, oxytocin is involved in the formation of the relationship between mother and child and, in a broader sense helps us to form strong ties with the people of our circle.

At the same time, oxytocin causes in us the suspicion, fear and even contempt toward outsiders. This is a product of evolution, which survived only those groups of people who have successfully cooperated with each other within the tribe and effectively reflect the attacks of outsiders.

Nowadays cognitive bias in favor of the group makes us Overpriced assess opportunities and advantages of loved ones and deny those of persons unknown to us personally.

3. Rationalization after purchase
Do you remember when the last time you bought something unnecessary, faulty or just too expensive? You probably a long time to convince myself that was absolutely right.

This effect is also known as the Stockholm Syndrome buyer. It is embedded in each of us a defense mechanism, causing the search for arguments to justify their actions. Unconsciously, we aim to prove that the money was well spent. Especially if the money was great. Social psychology explains the effect of the rationalization of a man willing to do anything just to avoid cognitive dissonance.

Having bought something unnecessary, we create conflict between aspiration and reality. To remove the psychological discomfort, really come a long and carefully for the desired issue.

4. Effect Player
The scientific literature is called the error player or false conclusion Monte Carlo. We tend to assume that many random events depend on the random events that have occurred previously.

A classic example - the coin toss. We flipped a coin five times. If the eagle dropped more often, we assume that for the sixth time should fall tails. If tails fell five times, we think that for the sixth time required to drop the eagle. In fact, the probability of getting heads or tails at the sixth roll is the same as in the previous five: 50 to 50.

Each subsequent coin toss is statistically independent of the previous one. The probability of each outcome is always 50%, but the intuitive person is unable to recognize this.

In effect the player superimposed underestimation of the value of the return to the mean. If tails still fell six times, we begin to believe that the coin is something wrong and that the extraordinary behavior of the system will continue. Then begins the effect of variations in the direction of a positive outcome - if we did not carry a long time, we begin to think that sooner or later we will be good things.

Similar feelings we experience, setting the stage for a new relationship. Whenever we believe that this time we'll be better than the previous attempt.

5. Denial probability
Few of us are afraid to ride in the car. But the thought of flying at an altitude of 11,400 meters Boeing calls the internal trembling almost everyone. Flights - unnatural and somewhat dangerous occupation. But while everyone knows that likely to die in a car accident is much higher than the probability killed in a plane crash.

Different sources define the chances of death in a car accident as 1 to 84, and the probability of dying in a plane crash - 1 to 5000 or even 1 to 20 000. This same phenomenon causes us to constantly worry about the attacks, but in fact need to be afraid of falling from ladders or food poisoning.

American lawyer and psychologist Cass Sunstein calls this effect the probability of denial. We are not able to properly assess the risk, or the risk of a particular class. To simplify the process, the probability of risk or ignored completely, or it is ascribed crucial. This leads to the fact that we believe the relatively harmless activities hazardous and dangerous - acceptable.

6. Selective perception
Suddenly, we begin to pay attention to the appearance of some things, the phenomenon or object that is not noticed before. Let's say you bought a new car: everywhere on the streets you see people in the same car. We begin to think that the model of the car suddenly became more popular. But in fact we just included it as part of its perception.

A similar effect occurs with pregnant women who suddenly begin to notice how others around them pregnant women. We are starting to see everywhere a meaningful number to us or hear our favorite song. We seem to have marked them tick in his mind. Then, the selectivity of perception is added've covered the confirmation bias.

This effect is known in psychology as a phenomenon of the Baader-Meinhof gang. A term coined in 1994 by an unnamed visitor forums newspaper Pioneer Press in St. Paul. Twice during the day he heard the name of a radical German Red Army Faction founded by Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. Few ways to catch yourself on selective perception of reality. Since we are bombarded with positive names of German terrorists, then somewhere maturing some plot!

Because of this cognitive distortion we are very difficult to recognize a phenomenon coincidence ... but this is a coincidence.

7. The effect of the status quo
People do not like changes. We tend to make decisions that will lead to the preservation of the current situation, or the most minor changes.

The effect of variations in the direction of the status quo is easy to see in the economy and in politics. We hold on to the routine, the bureaucracy, political parties, we start the game with chess moves most proven and order a pizza with the same filling. The danger is that the potential damage from the loss of the status quo is more important to us than the potential benefit from the new situation or alternative scenarios.

This approach, which holds all the conservative currents in science, religion and politics. The most obvious example - the US health care reform and the protection of patients. Most people in the United States for free (or at least cheap) medicine. But the fear of losing the status quo has led to the fact that the money allocated to the reform have not been and from 1 to 16 October 2013 the US government had to stop their work.

8. The effect of negativity
We pay more attention to bad news than good. And it's not that we are pessimists. In the evolution of the right response to bad news it was far more important than the right response to the good. The words "this berry delicious" could skip past the ears. But the word "saber-toothed tigers eat people," a deaf ear was not recommended.

Hence, the selectivity of our perception of new information. Negative news we feel more authentic - and very suspicious of people who are trying to convince us otherwise. In our time, the crime rate and the number of wars is lower than ever before in human history. But most of us readily agrees that the situation in the world every day is getting worse and worse.

With the effect of the negativity associated the concept of the fundamental attribution error. We tend to explain the actions of other people, their personal characteristics and their own behavior - external circumstances. This again is due to the evolution and selective perception of reality. To receive negative information about unreliable or dangerous members of society openly and promptly react to it for our ancestors were far more important than adequately assess their own behavior.

9. The effect of the majority
The man - there is a collective. We like to be like everyone else, even though we are not always aware of it, or openly express their nonconformity. When it comes time to choose a favorite, or mass of the winner, individual thinking gives way to the group. This is called the bandwagon effect, or imitation.

That's why professional politicians so negatively relate to pre-election polls. Survey results are quite capable of influencing election results: many voters tend to change their opinion in favor of the winning party in the poll.

But it's not only about the global phenomenon like the election - the effect of the majority can be observed in the family, and a small office. The effect of imitation is responsible for the spread of behaviors, social norms and ideas among groups of people, regardless of the motives or reason to have these ideas, norms and forms.

The unconscious man's inclination to conformism and related cognitive distortions were shown in 1951 in a series of experiments the American psychologist Solomon Asch. Students gathered in the audience were shown cards with pictures and ask questions about the length of the lines on the image. Only one student in each group was a real participant in the experiment. All the others were dummies, especially give the wrong answer. In 75% of these participants agreed with the opinion of the majority wrong.

10. The effect of projection
We are very familiar with his thoughts, values, beliefs and convictions. Still, society itself we spend 24 hours a day!

Unconsciously, we tend to think that other people think the same way as we do. We are confident that the majority of others share our beliefs, even if we have to do there is no reason. After project your way of thinking to other people very easily. But without the specific psychological exercises very difficult to learn to project the thoughts and attitudes of other people.

This cognitive bias often leads to a similar false-consensus effect. We not only believe that other people think as we do, but we believe that they agree with us. We tend to exaggerate their representative and normality, and with them overestimating the degree of agreement with us others.

The views of cults or extremist organizations shared not so many people. But do members of radical groups believe that the number of their supporters in the millions.

That is the effect of the projection is the belief that we can predict the outcome of a football match, or election.

11. The effect of the moment
Man is very difficult to imagine themselves in the future. Without special training, we are unable to predict future developments, as appropriate underestimate our expectations and correct behavior. We agree on the immediate pleasure, even if in the future it portends great pain.

Hence the effect of the moment, also known as the effect of the revaluation of discounts. This effect is seriously concerned about economists: from the tendency of people to prefer short-term benefits in the distant future benefits follows most of the problems of the world financial system. People are willing to spend money and are extremely reluctant to save for a rainy day.

Also, the heuristics of the moment well-known nutritionist. In 1998, American scientists conducted a study "Predicting hunger: effects on appetite and food choices of abstinence." Study participants are offered a choice between healthy (vegetables) and unhealthy (chocolate) food, they will receive next week. Initially, 74% of participants chose fruit. But when the day came the issuance of food and participants in the experiment were offered the opportunity to change your selection, 70% chose chocolate.

12. The effect of binding
Get new information, we relate it to the existing data. This is especially true numbers.

The psychological effect that we choose for a single number as an anchor and compare it with all the new data, the effect is called the anchor or anchor heuristics. A classic example - the value of goods in the store. If the goods are discounted, we compare the new price ($ 119, 95) is the old amount on the price tag ($ 160). The cost of the actual product in this case not taken into account. In effect, the whole mechanism is constructed anchor discounts and sales: just this week, a 25% discount, if you buy four pairs of jeans, one pair you will get for free!

The effect is used in the preparation of restaurant menus. Next to the super-expensive positions where specifically indicated (relatively!) Cheap. At the same time we do not react to the price for the cheapest items, and the difference in price between the salmon steak on the podium of the asparagus and chicken burgers. Against the background of the steak burger for 650 rubles per 190 it seems quite normal.

Also, the anchor effect occurs when a choice given three choices: very expensive, medium and very cheap. We choose the middle option is that against the background of the other two options seem the least suspicious.

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