6 Biases that make us think we know what other people are thinking

We think we know what other people are thinking

In some cases this means that we assume that they know what we know, in other cases we assume they’re thinking about us as much as we are thinking about ourselves. It’s basically just a case of us modeling their own mind after our own (or in some cases after a much less complicated mind than our own).

Illusion of Transparency (Observer’s Illusion of Transparency)

A tendency for people to overestimate the degree to which their personal mental state is known by others. Another manifestation of the illusion of transparency is a tendency for people to overestimate how well they understand others’ personal mental states.

Related. Illusion of Asymmetric Insight

Curse of Knowledge

A cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand.

Example. In a classroom setting, teachers have difficulty teaching novices because they cannot put themselves in the position of the student.

Spotlight Effect

The phenomenon in which people tend to believe they are being noticed more than they really are.

Extrinsic Incentive Error (Bias)

An attributional bias according to which people attribute relatively more to “extrinsic incentives” (such as monetary reward) than to “intrinsic incentives” (such as learning a new skill) when weighing the motives of others rather than themselves.

Illusion of External Agency

People typically underestimate their capacity to generate satisfaction with future outcomes. When people experience such self-generated satisfaction, they may mistakenly conclude that it was caused by an influential, insightful, and benevolent external agent.

When outcomes are unchangeable, people are more likely to turn ‘truly mediocre’ into ‘falsely great’. This subjective transformation is often termed a psychological immune response, in that it is our brain kicking in to protect us from the emotional consequences of undesirable outcomes. The illusion of external agency is thought to arise from this undetected transformation of ‘truly mediocre’ outcomes to ‘falsely great ones.

Illusion of Asymmetric Insight

A cognitive bias whereby people perceive their knowledge of others to surpass other people’s knowledge.

Example. Person A knows Person A better than Person B knows Person B or Person A.

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