22 Cognitive Biases Preventing Self-Improvement


In the psychological literature, the term “cognitive bias” implies a disorder of human thinking, adherence to stereotyped judgments about life, people and the surrounding situations. According to scientists, “biases in judgments” help to increase the adaptive capacity of the person to the environment and increase the speed of decision-making.


However, getting rid of the most obvious “cognitive biases” can increase the speed and quality of thinking, the ability to develop creativity and have a clearer opinion about the world around us.

Scientists have identified a huge amount of deviations in thinking. Most of them have been proved experimentally, while others remain assumptions. We will talk about the most common “cognitive biases” of our brain:

1. Illusion of control

In case of this thinking fallacy a person truly believes in his omnipotence. According to such people, they are able to control other people around them, and even random events, although in fact it is very far from being true. Illusion of control can lead to depression and neurosis, when events are completely out of control.

2. Impact bias

An insignificant event or experience is seen as a disaster. Such events are attributed great importance and allegedly have significant impact on the future life.

3. Bandwagon Effect

This effect means striving to follow the “mainstream” and the public opinion. It is most evident in the Internet when one grasps a widespread idea that masses of people consider to be unconditionally true. This cognitive bias is directly related to the herd behavior.

4. Contrast effect

Two recent events are compared by means of the contrast principle. For example, if you are admired by two men, you will give preference to a more attractive one from the physical and spiritual point of view; although if you have no choice, you can choose a less attractive young man as well.

5. Hawthorne Effect

Hawthorne effect states that if a human is being watched, he/she shows better results at work and any other activity. For example, the installation of surveillance cameras greatly increases the efficiency of employees in the company.

6. Optimism bias

Excessive optimism is when people are too optimistic about their chances for success, especially when there is no absolute guarantee of victory.

7. Overconfidence effect

Overconfidence effect means that people overestimate their ability, strength and dignity.

8. Stereotyping

Stereotyping means attributing stereotypical group traits of character to a person without knowing the individual traits of this personality. For example: “all men are selfish,” “all the rich are greedy,” etc. This bias is manifested daily in wrong judgments about people.

9. Rosy Retrospection

Rosy retrospection is the attribution of more optimistic values to past events. For example, memories of adventures are much more interesting than the adventures themselves, where people could experience boredom, discomfort, etc.

10. Just-World Phenomenon

The just-world phenomenon is manifested in the groundless belief in universal justice, equality, etc. People expect a fair assessment of their actions and efforts and are offended by any mismatch of expectations.

11. Fundamental Attribution Error

Fundamental attribution error is the estimation of other people’s behavior in terms of their personal qualities. The situational impact is neglected. For example, if you happen to be pushed on the street without apologizing – you can consider that person rude, although he/she could simply have failed to notice you in a hurry.

12. Halo Effect

The people, whom we like or who have credibility in the community, are considered infallible, and evidence of their deficiencies is ignored or treated as their merits.

13. Dunning-Kruger Effect

People with low qualifications appreciate their achievements, ignore failures and make erroneous conclusions, while highly skilled people really suffer from uncertainty, considering others to be more competent.

14. Projection bias

Thinking biases are associated with the projection – the tendency to attribute to others your thoughts, beliefs and values.

15. Lake Wobegon Effect

Such people give their person too much flattering and false review, evaluating themselves as better than others.

16. Self-fulfilling Prophecy

People get involved exclusively in the activities that confirm their beliefs one hundred percent. For example, there is a tendency to get acquainted with clearly unsuitable people to confirm the belief “I’ll always be alone, I have no happiness in personal life.” This cognitive bias affects all areas of life.

17. First Impression Effect

Initial opinion of the person almost does not change with time, even if there are facts to refute it.

18. System Justification

Any political, social and economic changes are denied, even if the changes should improve the situation and be for the good of the person.

19. Illusion of Transparency

People greatly overestimate the ability of others to understand their thoughts, feelings and beliefs.

20. Devaluation

This is the tendency to dismiss the confirmation of success, failures, or people if they contradict your beliefs. For example, a beautiful, talented and successful woman will always consider herself a failure no matter how successful she may become later.

21. Overgeneralization

The tendency to make global conclusions is based on a single event. For example, the failure at a job interview will make people consider themselves poor and useless as a professional; if a date goes wrong- a woman may feel she seems unattractive to all men.

22. Comparison

There is a tendency to constantly compare yourself with other personalities, more successful in some field. After comparing invariably, one surely regrets and suffers from a bad mood.