5 basic subconscious stereotypes leading to wrong decisions

Original author: Stephanie Vozza
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Speed ​​saves time and effort, but sometimes such a reflex reaction leads to bad consequences. In this article, Norma Montague, an assistant professor of accounting at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, will tell you how to avoid the negative consequences of an instant decision.

Prejudices affect the reasoning process daily, but only a few of us suspect their existence.

“The word bias has a negative connotation. But most often this involuntary phenomenon simply turns out to be the result of heuristics. Prejudice is a mental simplification that allows people to make quick and effective decisions. Usually, the result of their application is the right thing to do, but this does not always happen, ”Norma reports.

Prejudices fulfill their role remarkably, as they are usually systemic and predictable. Problems arise when people habitually rely on this method of decision-making, excluding or ignoring additional information (we recommend reading a useful article on how to work and not to forget, at the same time, to live ).

Montague's study on this topic was published in the Journal of Accountancy . In it, she gives an example of a person living in New York: “There are many one-way streets, and residents who are used to the traffic flow are quicker if they look only to the right before crossing the street. But if we move such a person to London, where the movement is on the left side, mental simplifications can play a trick on him. ”

Despite the fact that the Montague study is aimed at bias in accounting, its findings are relevant for any profession. She revealed 5 preconceptions that affect thoughts, and told how to avoid wrong decisions based on them.

1) Availability

If, in making a decision, you rely on the most easily accessible information, then you can miss key facts or tips, Montague notes.

People tend to make decisions based on the most superficial information. Problems arise when making a choice, because their knowledge or concepts may differ.

The addiction to accessibility is especially misleading if information is subjective. If, for example, you are asked to evaluate the relation of your productivity to the productivity of other people, most recognize their contribution as more significant, since it is the easiest way to get information about yourself.

Avoid this stereotype. The regular use of “feedback” before making a decision will help.

2) Anchor

If you evaluate a situation with a fact anchor, you may come to the wrong conclusion. Montague verified this bias by giving one half of the class an arbitrary numerical value of 300, and the other of 3000. She then asked the students to roughly estimate the length of the Mississippi. The average answer for those who got the “300” anchor was 800 miles, and those who got the “3000” named 2800 miles on average.

Anchors, according to Montague, are a popular seller tactic. “When, for example, you buy a car, sellers intentionally give out an anchor number, because they know that the bulk of people are unlikely to deviate from it,” she says.

Avoid this bias by checking the facts.

If you want to gain an advantage in negotiations, be the first to give an anchor.

3) presumption

Despite the fact that arrogance is very common among top managers, according to Montague, it can become a cause of a habit leading to rash actions. For example, to impossible promises.

Decision makers are able to overestimate their ability to complete a task. If you are presumptuous but fail, then let your team or company down. Interestingly, some consider this a good habit!

To get rid of such a behavioral pattern, it is worth making it a habit to take some time to make a decision (within a reasonable time frame!) And get advice from employees. This will make sure that your promises are fulfilled.

4) Confirmation

People who seek only evidence of the truth of their hopes or expectations will make decisions under the influence of bias.

“This stereotype is often found in disputes when facts are needed that support the desired conclusion. A problem arises if there is data that protects the opposite point of view and weakens your position, ”Montague explains.

Get rid of prejudice by testing your decisions with professional skepticism!

Look at the situation from a different angle or explain why your inner judgment may be incorrect. Such tactics will force you to take a timeout and carefully consider the shortcomings of the selected solution.

5) Haste

A strong desire to make a decision right now, without wasting time, can lead to an error. But hurrying people often do not consider it necessary to weigh all possible data before making a choice. Montague notes that external factors — financial or time constraints — usually lead to the haste of people.

If you are in a hurry, you are more likely to become a victim and other prejudices.

Avoid this addiction by stretching your decision making process whenever possible. Awareness is the first step towards judgment.

PS We recommend another article on the topic - Five misconceptions about productivity that we inspire ourselves .

Translation by Vyacheslav Davidenko, founder of MBA Consult

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