Cognitive Biases in Learning

Today’s post is written by Andrea May, #chat2lrn crew member and Vice President of Instructional Design Services at Dashe & Thomson in Minneapolis, MN. Andrea is an instructional designer, project manager, wife, mother, Girl Scout troop leader and theater artist.

Cognitive biases color almost every aspect of our daily lives. We all have them, whether Cognitive Biases Woprd Cloudwe want to admit it or not. They develop through our lives as we gain experiences that allow us to take “mental short-cuts” to navigate situations and make decisions. They are usually an indication of our values and beliefs, and in many cases cognitive biases can be helpful. Cognitive biases can help us make decisions more quickly in situations where time is of the essence. They can help to keep us safe in times of heightened emotional or physical stress. But cognitive biases can also lead to bad judgments and a resistance to learning and incorporating new information into our thought processes.

As learning and development professionals, it is imperative that we maintain an awareness of both our own cognitive biases and also an understanding of the common cognitive biases that the majority of us, as humans, hold on to. By keeping these common biases in mind as we design and develop instructional materials and events, we can incorporate strategies to mitigate them and open the way for learning.

So what are some of these common biases that most of us fall back on consistently, but can get in the way of learning?  There are dozens of them documented, but here is my top ten list of cognitive biases that I try to find ways to mitigate in both learning and organizational change situations:

  1. Confirmation bias: This is the tendency to easily accept information that confirms your point of view and reject information that does not support it.
  2. Anchoring bias: This is the tendency to place excessive weight or importance on one piece of information – often the first piece of information you learned about a topic.
  3. Dunning-Kruger effect: This is the tendency for incompetent people to overestimate their competence, and very competent people to underestimate their competence.
  4. Curse of knowledge bias: This is when well-informed people are unable to look at an issue from the perspective of a less informed person.
  5. Functional fixedness: This bias limits a person to utilizing an object or idea in only the way it is traditionally used.
  6. Mere exposure effect: This is the tendency to like something just because you are familiar with it.
  7. Not invented here bias: This is the tendency to discount information, ideas, standards, or products developed outside of a certain group.
  8. Reactance: This is the urge to do the opposite of what you are asked to do in order to preserve your freedom of choice.
  9. Status quo bias: This is the tendency to want things to stay relatively the same as they have always been.
  10. System justification bias: This is the tendency to try to actively maintain the status quo.

Are there biases that you attempt to mitigate in your work? What strategies have you found to be effective?  Join us for a #chat2lrn about cognitive biases in learning on Thursday July 2nd, 8:00am PDT, 11:00am EDT, 4:00pm BST.

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