Occ health: 20 Cognitive biases that damage decision-making in the workplace


1. ANCHORING BIAS: Persons are over-reliant on the first piece of information they hear. A negotiation will be influenced by the first person to make a comment. This comment will activate a range of reasonable possibilities in others’ minds. This is frequently seen in meetings where the first person after opening speaking determines the discourse of the meeting
2. AVAILABILITY HEURISTIC: People overestimate the importance of information that is available to them. A person might argue that noise is not so dangerous to them because they know of a jack hammer operator who never wore his hearing protection and never became deaf

Bandwagon effect

3. BANDWAGON EFFECT: The probability of one person believing something is related to the number of others who hold that same belief. This is a powerful form of group-think and is the main reason for unproductive meetings
4. BLIND-SPOT EFFECT: Failure to recognise your own cognitive biases is a bias in itself. People notice biases much more in others than in themselves
5. CHOICE-SUPPORTIVE BIAS: When choosing something, you tend to feel positive about it, even if the choice has flaws
6. CLUSTERING ILLUSION: This is the tendency to see patterns in all sorts of random events
7. CONFIRMATION BIAS: We tend to only listen to information that confirms our preconceptions. Managers may like to believe that their workers are lazy, ill-disciplined and non-motivated
8. CONSERVATISM BIAS: Where people favour prior evidence over new evidence that has emerged. It can be comforting in doing things the way it was done in the past
9. INFORMATION BIAS: The tendency to seek information when it does not affect action. More information is not always better. With less information people can often make more accurate predictions

10. OSTRICH EFFECT: The decison to ignore negative or dangerous information by “burying” one’s head in the sand, like an ostrich. A supervisor may not want to do a walk-through as it would force him to to enforce compliance or escalate system failures
11. OUTCOME BIAS: Judging a decision on its’ outcome – rather than on how exactly it was made. Just because a program was succesfull, does not mean it was a good program. Many people may have gone beyond the call of duty to make the event a success, but if the event would be repeated they may not be so keen as to perform beyond their scope of practice
12. OVERCONFIDENCE: Some are too confident in their abilities. This causes them to take risks. Experts are prone to this bias, since they are convinced they are right
13. PLACEBO EFFECT: When simply believing that something will have a certain effect on you, in fact causes that effect. Giving employees face masks can sometimes reduce nuisance value, just due to the belief that it protects
14. PRO-INNOVATION BIAS: When a proponent of innovation tends to overvalue its’ usefullness and undervalue its’ limitations. Electronic data systems are put in place which are not necessarily user-friendly and which are more prone to abuse, if not designed correctly. An example is an electronic sick note that can bypass a senior officer because the note goes directly to leave office. The paper leave request always went over the senior manager’s desk
15. RECENCY: The tendency to weigh the latest information more heavily than older information
16. SALIENCE: Our tendency to focus on the most easily recognisable features of a person or a concept. When thinking about dying at the workplace, you may be more worried about struck by lightning, as opposed to what is more likley, which is dying of motor vehicle accident while working
17. SELECTIVE PERCEPTION: Allowing our expectations to influence how we perceive the world. When there is an expectation that a certain priviledge will be given by management, and the priviledge is not given, the workplace is perceived as bad
18. STEREOTYPING: Expecting a group or person to have certain qualities without having real information on the group or person. It allows us to quickly identify strangers as friend or enemies, but people tend to misinterpret
19. SURVIVORSHIP: An error that comes from only focusing on surviving examples causes us to misjudge a situation. For instance, we may think that because a person with many years of working experience has done something a certain way, that copying the method will be safe to be performed by yourself
20. ZERO-RISK BIAS: Sociologists have found that we love certainty – even if is counterproductive. Eliminating risk entirely in our minds, wrongfully means no risk of harm taking place