Ever wonder why we hold such strong opinions on topics we know little about? Or make snap judgments of people based on arbitrary factors like their appearance? As much as we like to think of ourselves as rational beings, we are riddled with built-in biases. You've been hardwired with hidden prejudices and tendencies that often run counter to reason - and they're influencing how you think and act every day.

In this article, we're going to explore some of the most common biases embedded in that complicated contraption you call a brain. From confirmation bias to the halo effect, these mental shortcuts frequently lead us to draw misguided conclusions and make poor decisions without us even realising it.

But don't worry, now that you know your brain's dirty little secrets, we'll also share some tips to help overcome your inherent biases and think a little more clearly.

After all, the first step to change is awareness - so welcome to the hypocrisy of the human mind.

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What Are Biases and How Do They Shape Our Worldview?

Our beliefs and perceptions of the world around us are shaped by the biases we hold. Biases are preconceived notions, prejudices, and assumptions that influence how we think and act. Some are explicit, but many operate implicitly, in the background of our minds.

What are some common types of biases?

  • Confirmation bias: We tend to seek out information that confirms what we already believe and ignore anything that contradicts our preexisting views.
  • In-group bias: We tend to favour people who are most like us (our 'in-group') while being more critical of those perceived as different (the 'out-group').
  • Anchoring bias: We rely too heavily on the first information we receive (the 'anchor') and fail to adequately adjust our views in the face of new information.
  • Loss aversion: We feel the pain of losing something much more strongly than we feel the pleasure of gaining the same thing. This causes us to be overly cautious to avoid potential loss.

These are just a few examples, but they show how biases colour our thinking in so many areas of life. They affect our political affiliations, relationships, spending habits, risk assessments, and more. The reality is, we are all subject to biases, no matter how much we believe ourselves to be rational and objective. The key is developing an awareness of our blind spots and trying to overcome biases, rather than pretending they don't exist. Understanding our hidden biases is the first step to gaining a more balanced and empathetic view of ourselves and others.

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The Confirmation Bias - Believing What We Want to Believe

We all like to believe that we form our opinions based on an objective analysis of the facts. But the truth is, our biases often distort how we perceive information to confirm what we already think is true. This is known as the confirmation bias.

The Confirmation Bias - Believing What We Want to Believe

Once we've formed an initial belief about something, we tend to only notice information that confirms it. We ignore or downplay anything that contradicts our preexisting assumptions. For example, if you think all pit bulls are aggressive dogs, you're more likely to notice news stories about pit bull attacks and ignore those about pit bulls as loving family pets.

The confirmation bias leads us to gather information in a way that supports our views, rather than challenges them. We tend to accept claims at face value when they align with our beliefs, but become hypercritical when they don't. We even interpret ambiguous information as supporting our position.

Overcoming the confirmation bias requires conscious effort and an open mind. We must seek out alternative perspectives, consider counterevidence, and question whether our reasons for believing something are rational or emotionally motivated. It's not easy, but it's the only way to gain a balanced, well-informed view of the world.

The confirmation bias is a hardwired human tendency, but by being aware of it, we can work to overcome its influence. With an open and curious mindset, we can challenge prejudices and preconceptions, learn more accurate information, and make better decisions as a result. Overall, we must accept that the truth is often complex, and no one has a monopoly on it.

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The Halo Effect - First Impressions Matter More Than They Should

The halo effect refers to our tendency to form a positive or negative judgment about someone based on our initial impression. In other words, we assume that one outstanding personality trait ‘rubs off’ on the whole person. This bias causes us to perceive people as either all good or all bad based on limited information.

First encounters

When we first meet someone, we quickly size them up and form an impression within seconds. We pay close attention to attributes like appearance, body language, and communication style to determine if we find them likeable or not. Unfortunately, these snap judgments are often inaccurate and hard to reverse. Even though we may gain additional information about the person over time that contradicts our initial opinion, we tend to ignore it. We’ve already categorised them as either an ‘angel’ or ‘devil’ in our mind.

Flawed judgments

The halo effect leads us to make flawed judgments about people that end up influencing how we interact with and treat them. We may give an attractive, charismatic co-worker preferential treatment over someone less socially adept but more competent. Or we might dismiss a shy but intelligent classmate as not being leadership material. These prejudices and misperceptions can have real consequences, causing us to miss opportunities or make poor decisions.

Overcoming the halo effect requires conscious effort and an open mind. We have to recognise when our initial impressions may be misleading and seek out additional information before making up our mind about someone. It also helps to evaluate people based on their actual performance and merits rather than superficial qualities. Though first impressions are hard to shake, making an effort to set them aside can help reduce biased thinking. The halo effect is a natural human tendency, but that doesn’t mean we have to be at its mercy.

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The Fundamental Attribution Error - Blaming Others While Excusing Ourselves

The fundamental attribution error refers to our tendency to blame other people's actions on their character or personality, while excusing our own behaviour as the result of external circumstances. We judge others harshly for their mistakes and flaws, but go easy on ourselves.

When someone cuts you off in traffic, it's because they're a terrible driver. But when you cut someone off, it was an honest mistake or you were distracted for a moment. When a coworker fails to respond to an email, they're lazy or disorganised. But when you fail to respond, you've just been really busy and overwhelmed recently.

Do you see the pattern? We attribute our own actions to situational factors out of our control, but attribute the same actions in others to their innate shortcomings or faults.

This bias causes problems in our relationships and daily interactions. It leads us to judge and criticise others too harshly, while failing to take responsibility for our own actions. The truth is, that people are complex. Their behaviour depends on many factors, including circumstances, experiences, emotions, and environment. A single action defines no one.

So next time you find yourself judging someone else's actions or character, stop and consider the situational factors that may have influenced them. Try putting yourself in their shoes. And be willing to extend to others the same grace and understanding you so readily grant yourself. Overcoming the fundamental attribution error is a matter of developing empathy, compassion, and a balanced perspective.

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Overcoming Built-in Biases - How to Recognise and Reduce Their Impact

To overcome our built-in biases, the first step is recognising them. Once you understand the common ways our thinking can be skewed, you can start to notice those patterns in yourself and make an effort to counteract them.

Confirmation Bias

We tend to search for and believe information that confirms what we already think. Make an effort to also seek out information that contradicts your views. Try to consider other perspectives with an open mind.

Anchoring Bias

We rely too heavily on the first piece of information we receive, known as the “anchor,” and fail to adequately adjust for subsequent information. Be willing to revise your anchors in the face of new evidence. Don’t assume your first impression is always correct.

Availability Heuristic

We tend to make judgments based on information that comes easily to mind. But just because something is easy to recall doesn’t mean it’s the most accurate or important information. Seek out objective facts and statistics, not just dramatic or emotionally charged examples.

Bandwagon Effect

We tend to do or believe things simply because others do. Don’t get swept up in popular opinion or social pressure. Evaluate options objectively based on facts, not on what friends or influential people say or do.

Reducing the impact of biases is a lifelong effort. Staying aware of the tendencies we all share to think in irrational ways can help you avoid making poor decisions or forming unfair judgments. Look for opportunities in your daily life to overcome biases, consider other perspectives, and base your opinions on factual evidence as much as possible. With regular practice, you can strengthen your ability to think critically and rationally.


You see, we're all subject to these hidden biases that influence our thinking in ways we don't even realise. The good news is that awareness is the first step. Now that you know about confirmation bias, the halo effect and anchoring bias, you can start to notice them in yourself and others.

Make an effort to seek out alternative perspectives and consider opinions that contradict your own. Try to base your judgments on facts and evidence rather than gut feelings or first impressions.

It's not easy overcoming biases that have evolved over millions of years and are hardwired into our brains, but with conscious effort and practise, you can work to overcome them. The truth is, we're all hypocrites from time to time. But being aware of that fact might just help us become a little less hypocritical.