9 Biases which affect our decision making by preferring the simpler option

We favor simple-looking options and complete information over complex, ambiguous options

We’d rather do the quick, simple thing than the important complicated thing, even if the important complicated thing is ultimately a better use of time and energy.

Ambiguity Bias (Effect)

A cognitive bias where decision making is affected by a lack of information, or “ambiguity”. The effect implies that people tend to select options for which the probability of a favorable outcome is known, over an option for which the probability of a favorable outcome is unknown yet potentially better.

Example. When buying a house, many people choose a fixed rate mortgage, where the interest rate is set in stone, over a variable rate mortgage, where the interest rate fluctuates with the market. This is the case even though a variable rate mortgage has statistically been shown to save money.

Belief Bias

The tendency to judge the strength of arguments based on the plausibility of their conclusion rather than how strongly they support that conclusion. A person is more likely to accept arguments that support a conclusion that aligns with their values, beliefs and prior knowledge.

Bike-Shedding Effect (Parkinson’s Law of Triviality)

The argument that members of an organization give disproportionate weight to trivial issues.

Example. A fictional committee whose job was to approve the plans for a nuclear power plant spending the majority of its time on discussions about relatively minor but easy-to-grasp issues, such as what materials to use for the staff bike shed, while neglecting the proposed design of the plant itself, which is far more important and a far more difficult and complex task. A reactor is so vastly expensive and complicated that an average person cannot understand it, so one assumes that those who work on it understand it. On the other hand, everyone can visualize a cheap simple bicycle shed.

Conjunction Fallacy (The Linda Problem)

A formal fallacy that occurs when it is assumed that specific conditions are more probable than a single general one. Read More.

Example. Linda is 31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. She majored in philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.

Which is more probable?

1) Linda is a bank teller.

2) Linda is a bank teller and is active in the feminist movement.

The majority of those asked chose option 2. However, the probability of two events occurring together (in “conjunction”) is always less than or equal to the probability of either one occurring alone.

Information Bias

The tendency to seek information when it does not affect action. An example of information bias is believing that the more information that can be acquired to make a decision, the better, even if that extra information is irrelevant for the decision. Read More.

Law of Triviality

Our tendency to provide more articulate and explicit goals for lower priority areas of our lives. It appears that the daunting nature of truly important goals may motivate the self to deflect this anxiety by attending to less important, but also less threatening goals.

Less Is Better Effect

A type of preference reversal that occurs when the lesser or smaller alternative of a proposition is preferred when evaluated separately, but not evaluated together. Example. A dinnerware set with 24 intact pieces was judged more favourably than one with 31 intact pieces (including the same 24) plus a few broken ones when assessed separately. However, the effect disappears when the options are assessed together.

Occam’s Razor

Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Alternatively, other things being equal, simpler explanations are generally better than more complex ones.

Controversial. This is not a cognitive bias. It is a heuristic, but not one that deviates from rationality in judgment.

Rhyme as Reason Effect (Eaton-Rosen Phenomenon)

A cognitive bias whereupon a saying or aphorism is judged as more accurate or truthful when it is rewritten to rhyme.

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