Tips for Teachers: 4. Overcoming Cognitive Bias 

May 16, 2023 | Blogs

Tips for Teachers: 4. Overcoming Cognitive Bias 

May 16, 2023 | Blogs

Cognitive bias is a systematic error in thinking that occurs when people are processing and interpreting information in the world around them and affects the decisions and judgments that they make. Cognitive biases are often a result of your brain’s attempt to simplify information processing. 

There are several different types of bias, including: 

Anchoring bias

Where we rely heavily on information received early on in our decision-making process. Because we use this information as our point of reference our perception becomes skewed.

Attentional bias

Our tendency to pay attention to certain elements whilst simultaneously ignoring others. 

False consensus

Overestimating how much others are like them in terms if such things as beliefs, values, characteristics, experiences and behaviour. This bias leads us to believe others are more similar to ourselves than they actually are. 

Misinformation bias

When post event information interferes with your memory of the original event. It is easy to have your memory influenced by what you hear from others. 

Halo effect

The overall impression you have of a person influences how we feel and think about their character. Our perception of a single trait can carry over to how we perceive other aspects. 

Dunning-Kruger effect

When people believe they are smarter or more capable than they actually are. It occurs due to a lack of self-awareness which prevents them from accurately assessing their own skills and ability. Many believe their experience and skills in one particular area are transferable to another. 

Sunk cost bias

This is the tendency to follow through on an endeavour after we’ve already invested considerable energy and resources into it, even when the sunk costs outweigh the potential benefits.  

When you are making judgments and decisions about the world around you, you like to think that you are objective, logical, and capable of taking in and evaluating all the information that is available to you. Unfortunately, these biases sometimes trip us up, leading to poor decisions and bad judgements. It can be difficult to avoid bias as they are often ingrained. Some things that you can do to help overcome biases that might influence your thinking and decision-making include:

Being aware of bias

Consider how biases might influence your thinking. Discuss your thoughts with others. Surround yourself with a diverse group of people. 

Considering the factors that influence your decisions

Thinking about the influences on your decisions may help you make better choices. Don’t be afraid to listen to dissenting views. Seek out others who will challenge your opinion. Reflect on the past by looking for patterns in how you have perceived and reacted in prior situations.  

Challenging your biases

If you notice that there are factors influencing your choices, focus on actively challenging your biases. Thinking about these things and challenging your biases can make you a more critical thinker. Being curious can help us stop and think long enough at ask questions and help us stop presuming we’re correct. Look at situations and the people involved non-judgmentally. Listen to and ask for feedback from your colleagues – this will help highlight your strengths and areas needing development you may not even be aware of. 

We all have cognitive bias, but it is important we take proactive steps to reduce the impact they have on our judgement and decision making. 

This blog was written by Bretta Townend-Jowitt, Education Consultant and Trainer. 

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