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Saturday, May 9, 2020

12 Cognitive Biases Explained - How to Think Better and More Logically Removing Bias

Why I didn't believe we would succumb to a Pandemic I have to admit, I like many others didn't believe the COVID pandemic would hit the US with such a powerful blow and knock us off our feet and down to the canvas for a 10-count. I wanted to believe it would be flu-like and just pass on after a bit of a nuisance. Why was I susceptible to such fanciful thinking when, in the healthcare community, we've had warnings for years now that a pandemic was likely to occur? It goes back to innate biases and influences. I was really fighting my own brain and how it's wired to receive or not receive negative information. The mind is full of psychological biases that can lead us dismiss, minimize or overlook serious warnings. Here are a few of my biases: -Normalcy bias: normalcy bias prevents us from seeing just how bad things are getting until we are overwhelmed by the problem. We don't want to believe the occurrence is significant enough to disrupt our lives and routines. -Optimism bias: which is the tendency to think that even if a disaster is happening all around me, I myself won't be affected, so I don't need to take precautions. -Social proof: even as the pandemic is gathering momentum, if everyone else is acting like they're not worried, we don't get worried. We don't start wearing masks. We don't start avoiding crowds. -Authority and Credibility bias: barring our own ability to assess the situation, we look to those who we have placed in positions of authority with access to situational awareness and who are entrusted to act and advocate for our good. If they don't seem concerned, we are not concerned. -Recency bias or near-miss bias: our most recent experiences weigh heaviest in our assessment of risk. We have had near misses with SARS, MERS, H1N1, Ebola, Zika and measles all of which were anticipated to devastate our society, but never manifested as such. So, in effect, it's like the boy who cried wolf. We stopped paying attention to the warnings. These are some of my biases which came to bear in the current pandemic situation. You may have others. By the way, even knowing my biases I am still susceptible them. I don't wish to believe a second devastating wave of COVID-19 may occur for all the same biases. But, my saving grace, is the recency bias. If a second wave does occur, I'm likely to overcome my other biases and spring into action more quickly.
from Rajesh Harrykissoon, MD

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