Your Thoughts are Biased
Being the only person doing medicine among my childhood friends, I felt like I was being left out. It felt intentional, but I didn’t dare ask. I was doing peacekeeping. Until one day, one of my friends opened up. “Medicos don’t have the time and ability to have fun,” he said. The same people thought of me as fun until I pursued medicine. This is their cognitive or thought bias.
Thought biases are like optical illusions inside your mind. These are the thinking patterns we develop due to external or internal inputs that we face. All these inputs condition us to think in a certain way, most of the time even without our awareness.
I am sharing the most common thought biases seen in people. Try to understand them and apply them to your own life. It might offend you, too, like I did when I learned them in the first place. But it helped me change my thought process as I started recognizing patterns.
Common cognitive biases
Information about what is good and evil is being instilled in us daily. How do we know if it is good or bad? We observe our environment and our primary carers as we grow and evolve. The first detail we learn about something gets anchored in us as we develop. This gets processed and stored in our memory.
We categorize that encounter as good or bad based on our feelings or what our parents told us. What if it’s not? What if it is the opposite? Remember, there are two sides to a story. What if we judge something based on knowing only one side?
For example, you might have disliked a relative who teased you once when you were young. As you grow, you may end up disliking that person, though they were just being playful.
When we must decide on something, all the worst-case possibilities come to us. Thus, those with a negative outlook have a higher chance of misguided decisions. All the points coming to mind justify that decision. They give less value to their instincts.
This becomes a problem in some situations, like when you are in a debating conversation. Because it makes you so close-minded that you push away the possibilities. For example, your kid wants to go on this school trip the next day. You want him to have new experiences. But suddenly, your mind throws at you all the worst things that can happen to your kid, making you refuse.
In our teenage years, we tend to do something just because our friends do it, even if it conflicts with our values. This desire to fit in and be accepted grows into adulthood, robbing us of our individuality. We tend to get attracted to something when others do it or consume it. This can be good when it comes to inspiration to grow and enjoy. But it becomes a problem when you are keeping bad company. This is the bandwagon effect.
Being judgmental towards others is easy. While being so, we often become blind to our flaws. People find pleasure in believing this idea: “I’m okay. You are not okay.” Even those who brag that they are okay with their flaws can’t take constructive criticism. My mother always says,” When you point at someone, notice that three fingers are pointing at you. Mend yourself before judging others.” It’s only when you stop pointing at others and unveil your blind spot that you will grow. This is personal blind spot bias.
We accept new information that validates our ideas, opinions, and thoughts. Those that challenge them, be they positive or negative, always seem far-fetched. Sometimes, we confirm these ideas, even if they are self-sabotaging. We refuse to let in any evidence to the contrary. For example, someone with low self-esteem seeks out insults in every conversation.
Fact and information bias:
With the growth of the internet, we have easy access to information. We gather as many ideas as possible to feel well-informed. But excess of anything doesn’t mean more wellness. In this rat race, we get caught up in just collecting pieces without taking any effective action. They think we have become competent with all the brand-new information. Yet what is the purpose of all this striving when it is not used? This becomes an optical illusion. Many collect information to talk about it instead of practicing it.
Thinking about their desires will somehow make them come true. Likewise, some believe that only bad things happen to them. They all need a reality check here. We cannot manifest reality. We can make it a reality. Believing that you will get that job is going to get you that job if you work for it.
Another example is that some think they are incompetent to do anything, which may seem true. This is because they start believing it and never try to take action to disprove it. This is the placebo effect.
This is when people make decisions based on the outcome alone instead of knowing the process. It is like judging someone for their actions instead of knowing their intentions. Understanding why someone acts in a certain way to help them is essential.
This is an example in a negative sense. Someone is driving drunk and reaches home without any accidents. As he had arrived safely this time, his biased thinking could make him repeat this.
Starting an initiative for a cause is innovation. Innovation leads to greatness. That greatness causes dependency. In time, we need to remember the cause of our initiative. Instead, we start chasing and worshipping that status. Thus, the usefulness is overvalued, and the limitations should be remembered.
For example, political parties are being formed for a movement. It is biased when the party starts to prioritize its status over the cause of the movement.
Stereotyping and generalizing bias:
This is being opinionated about a person or group without knowing them completely. This is generalizing somebody’s character because they belong to a group. And it has a higher probability of not being true. It has the advantage of stereotyping strangers as safe or dangerous for a child. However, the media portrayal is biased this way, which leads to sociocultural conditioning. Based on this biased perception, people who consume them classify facts as good or bad.
For example, a student is poorly judged because he talks well with the infamous school gang.
These are the common thought biases that we experience in our daily lives. Do you have a thought bias? If so, try to self-reflect. Ask yourself why you have them and what you need to change.
Hi, I am Shanjitha. I write about the mental and emotional aspects of personal growth, self-management, books, and motherhood. If you like my stories and feel like supporting me, subscribe to my Substack newsletter for free. I write exclusive topics on healing and self-discovery. Also, I believe in growing together and am open to sharing your thoughts with me.