Cognitive biases: discovering an interesting psychological effect

Cognitive biases (also called cognitive biases) are psychological effects that cause impaired processing of information captured by our senses, which generates distortion, misjudgment, inconsistent or illogical interpretation based on the information we have.

Social-type biases are those that refer to attribution bias and disrupt our interactions with other people in our daily lives.

Cognitive biases: the mind deceives us

The phenomenon of cognitive bias was born as a evolving need so that human beings can make immediate judgments that our brains use to respond with agility to certain stimuli, problems or situations, which due to their complexity would be impossible to process all information, and therefore require selective or subjective filtering. It is true that a cognitive bias can lead us to errors, but in certain contexts it makes it possible to decide more quickly or to make an intuitive decision when the immediacy of the situation does not allow its rational examination.

Cognitive psychology is responsible for studying these types of effects, as well as other techniques and structures that we use to process information.

Concept of prejudice or cognitive bias

Cognitive prejudices or prejudices arise from different processes that are not easily distinguished. These include heuristic processing (mental shortcuts), emotional and moral motivations, where the social influence.

The concept of cognitive bias first appeared thanks to Daniel Kahneman in 1972, when he realized that it was impossible for people to reason intuitively with very large magnitudes. Kahneman and other researchers proved the existence of scenario models in which judgments and decisions were not based on the predictable according to rational choice theory. They provided explanatory support to these differences by finding the key to heurism, processes that are intuitive but which are generally the source of systematic errors.

Studies on cognitive biases were increasingly extensive and other disciplines were also doing research, such as medicine or political science. In this way, the discipline of Behavioral economics, Which he devoted to Kahneman after winning the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 for integrating psychological investigation into economics, discovering associations in human judgment and decision making.

However, some critics of Kahneman argue that heuristics should not lead to conceiving of human thinking as a puzzle of irrational cognitive bias, but rather to understanding rationality as an adaptive tool that does not mimic the rules of logic. formal or probabilistic.

The most studied cognitive biases

Retrospective bias or a posteriori bias: it is the propensity to perceive past events as predictable.

Match bias: also called attribution error: It is the tendency to put an excessive emphasis on explanations, behaviors or personal experiences of others.

Confirmation bias: it is the tendency to discover or interpret information that confirms preconceptions.

Self-service bias: It is the tendency to demand more responsibility for successes than for failures. It also arises when we tend to interpret ambiguous information as useful to their intentions.

False consensus bias: it is the tendency to judge that one’s own opinions, beliefs, values ​​and customs are more prevalent among others than they actually are.

Memory bias: A memory bias can upset the content of what we remember.

Representation bias: When we assume that something is more likely from a premise that does not actually predict anything.

An example of cognitive bias: Bouba or Kiki

the bouba / kiki effect it is one of the most well-known cognitive biases. It was detected in 1929 by the Estonian psychologist Wolfgang kohler. In an experiment on Tenerife (Spain), the researcher showed shapes similar to those in Figure 1 to several participants, and detected a strong preference among the subjects, who linked the pointed shape with the name “takete”, and the rounded shape with the name “baluba”. In 2001, V. Ramachandran repeated the experiment using the names “kiki” and “bouba”, and asked many people which of the forms was called “bouba” and which “kiki”.

In this study, more than 95% of people chose the round shape as “bouba” and the pointed shape as “kiki”. This provided an experimental basis for understanding that the human brain extracts the abstract properties of shapes and sounds. In fact, a recent survey of Daphne Maurer has shown that even children under the age of three (who cannot yet read) already report this effect.

Explanations of the Kiki / Bouba effect

Ramachandran and Hubbard interpret the kiki / bouba effect as a demonstration of the implications for the evolution of human language, as it gives clues that indicate that the naming of certain objects is not entirely arbitrary.

The call “bouba” in the rounded shape might suggest that this bias arises from the way we pronounce the word, with the mouth in a more rounded position to emit the sound, while serving a more tense and angular pronunciation of the sound ” kiki “. It should also be noted that the sounds of the letter “k” are louder than those of the “b”. The presence of such “synesthetic maps” suggests that this phenomenon may form the neurological basis of auditory symbolism, In which the phonemes are mapped and linked to certain objects and events in a non-arbitrary manner.

People with autism, however, do not show such a strong preference. While all the subjects studied obtained scores greater than 90% for attributing “bouba” to the rounded shape and “kiki” to the inclined shape, the percentage fell to 60% in people with autism.

Bibliographical references:

  • Bunge, M. and Ardila, R. (2002). Philosophy of psychology. Mexico: 21st century.
  • Myers, David G. (2005). Psychology. Mexico: Pan-American medicine.
  • Triglia, Adrián; Regader, Bertrand; García-Allen, Jonathan (2016). Psychologically speaking. Paidós.

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