Handling Decision Bias

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Decision making is not an exact science. But making good decisions is important if you are looking for work or even if you already have a job. There are many factors that influence our decisions, many of which we are unaware we have.

We try to make our decisions as dispassionately as possible, relying on as much information and knowledge as we can gather. But, in addition to knowledge, our emotions and desires also enter into the equation. We have intrinsic biases that influence our decisions, and so understanding what these biases are and how they operate is essential to help us make the best decisions we can, according to business analyst Robert Wolf. He offers a short list of the most common biases in decision making.

One bias is called anchoring. This is our subconscious inclination to give credence to numbers and arguments containing numbers, even if the numbers don’t add up. Numbers influence our decisions, even when they shouldn’t.

Another problem related to anchoring is our perspective on things. This problem arises from the questions we ask. We tend to recognize only the information given in response to our questions, neglecting other information that may contradict what we want to know.

Another bias is called framing, and this centers around the way something is presented to us. The way it is presented affects our decision. We are generally more concerned about suffering a loss than with the allure of a potential gain that may involve risk, and that affects our decisions.

Another bias revolves around availability. We give more credence to events that we can imagine happening, even if the chance of them happening is remote. We also tend to give more attention to information or events that are more recent than things that are more distant in the past, Wolf says.

Another problem is confirmation bias, where we tend to look for events or information that support the decisions we have already made, paying no attention to information that may contradict our past decisions.

Another bias we have is toward commitment escalation. We are reluctant to change course or abandon a course of action that we have committed a lot of resources to, even though it may not be working out.

To counteract these biases, we have to continually keep an open mind, searching for evidence that may contradict our decisions, Wolf says. We also need to get a wide array of opinions so that we don’t become overconfident.

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