We hear this word all the time, bias, but what does it actually mean? It means we favor or don’t favor a certain belief, person, group of people or activity over another. And this favoring is not based in reasoning, but instead based in assumptions–probably faulty assumptions.
Cognitive bias has to do with having biases in our thinking. This means we favor a certain belief, or we favor a certain idea, or a certain choice. This favoring we can think of as incorrect because it’s based on faulty assumptions. And there’s actually a neurological explanation for this phenomenon, and that is that we receive roughly 11 million bits of information per second, but our brains can only process 40 bits of information per second.
So that’s a huge discrepancy. 11 million bits versus. 40 bits. I really love talking about evolution. And if you think about it back in the day, we really needed to have be able to come to conclusions quickly. Otherwise, we might get eaten by the tiger. The researchers say this is why we have these cognitive biases–a subconscious error in thinking that affects how rational and how accurate our thinking is.
Those of us in the mindfulness world, we understand that there’s such a great portion of our thinking that just simply isn’t accurate. There’s about 24 total cognitive biases that researchers have found. Negativity bias is our tendency to remember negative events more often than positive events and dwell on negative memories more often than positive memories. For example, we go to a party and we come home and we find ourselves thinking about the negative interactions that we had instead of some of the positive things that happened.
We have been evolved to have this bias because it’s better for our physical survival. So again, thinking about the person running through the woods with the tiger. Let’s say that happened and then they get back and they think, “Oh, it was so sunny out.” That’s r not going to help them for future episodes of being chased down by a tiger.
There’s a study called Cognitive Biases on Mindfulness that shows that our biases drop by 30 to 40% if we practice mindfulness*. So if you are interested in reducing your cognitive biases, learn a mindfulness practice. It will support you to think more accurately and relay less on assumptions.
*A study “Cognitive biases and mindfulness” Humanities and Social Sciences Communications; 2021, London.
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