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50 Cognitive Biases in the Modern World

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50 Cognitive Biases in the Modern World

50 cognitive biases

50 Cognitive Biases in the Modern World

Cognitive biases are widely accepted as something that makes us human.

Every day, systematic errors in our thought process impact the way we live and work. But in a world where everything we do is changing rapidly—from the way we store information to the way we watch TV—what really classifies as rational thinking?

It’s a question with no right or wrong answer, but to help us decide for ourselves, today’s infographic from TitleMax lists 50 cognitive biases that we may want to become privy to.

In the name of self-awareness, here’s a closer look at three recently discovered biases that we are most prone to exhibiting in the modern world.

Automation Bias

AI-infused applications are becoming incredibly good at “personalizing” our content, but will there come a time when we let algorithms make all of our decisions?

Automation bias refers to the tendency to favor the suggestions of automated systems.

Take Netflix, for example. Everything we see on the platform is the result of algorithms—even the preview images that are generated. Then, to harness the power of data and machine learning, Netflix categorizes its content into tens of thousands of micro-genres. Pairing these genre tags with a viewer’s history allows them to assign several of over 2,000 “taste profiles” to each user.

And while there’s nothing wrong with allowing Netflix to guide what we watch, there’s an enormous sea of content standing by. Estimates from 2015 claimed it would take nearly four years to watch all of Netflix’s content. Thousands more hours of content have since been added.

If we want to counter this cognitive bias, finding a new favorite series on platforms like Netflix may require some good old-fashioned human curiosity.

The Google Effect

Also known as “digital amnesia”, the aptly named Google Effect describes our tendency to forget information that can be easily accessed online.

First described in 2011 by Betsy Sparrow (Columbia University) and her colleagues, their paper described the results of several memory experiments involving technology.

In one experiment, participants typed trivia statements into a computer and were later asked to recall them. Half believed the statements were saved, and half believed the statements were erased. The results were significant: participants who assumed they could look up their statements did not make much effort to remember them.

Because search engines are continually available to us, we may often be in a state of not feeling we need to encode the information internally. When we need it, we will look it up.

– Sparrow B, et al. Science 333, 777 (2011) 

Our modern brains appear to be re-prioritizing the information we hold onto. Notably, the study doesn’t suggest we’re becoming less intelligent—our ability to learn offline remains the same.

The IKEA Effect

Identified in 2011 by Michael Norton (Harvard Business School) and his colleagues, this cognitive bias refers to our tendency to attach a higher value to things we help create.

Combining the Ikea Effect with other related traits, such as our willingness to pay a premium for customization, is a strategy employed by companies seeking to increase the intrinsic value that we attach to their products.

For instance, American retailer Build-A-Bear Workshop is anchored around creating a highly interactive customer experience. With the help of staff, children (or adults) can assemble their stuffed animals from scratch, then add clothing and accessories at extra cost.

Nike also incorporates this bias into its offering. The footwear company offers a Nike By You line of customizable products, where customers pay a premium to design bespoke shoes with an extensive online configurator.

While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with our susceptibility to the Ikea Effect, understanding its significance may help us make more appropriate decisions as consumers.

What Can We Do?

As we navigate an increasingly complex world, it’s natural for us to unconsciously adopt new patterns of behavior.

Becoming aware of our cognitive biases, and their implications, can help us stay on the right course.

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Flowchart: Are You Working for a Toxic Boss?

Most people have had bad bosses, but is your boss toxic? This flowchart helps you discover if you have a toxic boss and what to do about it.

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toxic boss

Flowchart: Are You Working for a Toxic Boss?

The experience of less-than-ideal work situations are common, and the global pandemic has likely heightened challenges for bosses and employees alike. How can mediocre or outright hostile leadership impact your ability to work well?

This flowchart from Resume.io helps you figure out if you’ve got a toxic boss weighing you down. It covers seven archetypes of toxic bosses, and how to respond to each one.

The 7 Types of Toxic Bosses

Barbara Kellerman, a professor of public leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School identifies seven types of toxic bosses that can exist.

NumberToxic Boss TypeDescription
#1Incompetent BossUnable or unwilling to do their job well
#2Rigid BossConfuses inflexibility with strength
#3Intemperate BossLacks self-knowledge and self-control
#4Callous BossLacks empathy and kindness
#5Corrupt BossSteals or cheats to promote their own interests
#6Insular BossIs cliquish or unreachable
#7Evil BossCauses pain to further their sense of power and dominance

Some bosses simply don’t have the capacity to do their jobs, which makes it more difficult for their employees. Others can be corrupt or callous, creating a highly unmotivating work environment.

But how many people are in this situation?

To give a few quick examples, around 13% of all employees in Europe work under a toxic boss. In the U.S., a whopping 75% say they have left a job primarily because of a bad boss.

What’s so Bad about a Bad Boss?

Bosses can make or break your job experience. Having a toxic boss can cause your quality of work to suffer, which can then trickle down to impact your overall career.

In fact, Harvard Business Review found that a toxic work environment can lead to decreased motivation and employee disengagement. This has significant knock-on effects such as:

  • 37% higher absenteeism
  • 60% more errors in their work
  • 18% lower productivity

According to the same study, this can cause companies to have 16% lower profitability and a 65% lower share price over time.

The physical side effects are not to be underestimated, either. One Swedish study found that a bad boss who increases your job strain can, in tandem, increase your chance of cardiac arrest by 50%. Additionally, a study out of Stanford found that mismanagement in the American workplace and subsequent stress could potentially be responsible for 120,000 deaths per year.

Tips to Deal with a Toxic Boss

Bad bosses can hurt the company, the overall work environment, and can impact your professional growth and personal health.

So, what can you do about it?

NumberToxic Boss TypeSolution
#1Incompetent BossUse initiative
#2Rigid BossUse the power of persuasion
#3Intemperate BossLook for opportunities
#4Callous BossAsk for a 1-on-1 meeting
#5Corrupt BossFind co-workers who share your concerns
#6Insular BossOffer them opportunities to open up
#7Evil BossTake a stand

Different kinds of bosses require different approaches, and some simply aren’t worth putting up with. For instance, taking initiative with an incompetent boss is one relatively easy solution, but having a 1-on-1 with a callous boss takes more effort. An evil boss requires intervention from HR.

If you don’t have a toxic boss, consider yourself lucky. Here are two ways to keep your working relationship strong:

  • Take initiative
  • Keep up open communication
  • Ask for constant feedback so you know where you stand
  • Under-promise and over-deliver

What Can Bosses Do?

Toxic bosses can have disastrous consequences on employees and companies. According to one Gallup survey, at minimum, 75% of the reasons for voluntary turnover can be influenced by managers.

After looking at some of the ways employees can address toxic bosses, how can bosses ensure their work environment is healthy? Harvard Business Review recommends four main things:

  • Encourage social connections
  • Show empathy
  • Go out of your way to help
  • Encourage employees to talk to you—especially about their problems

The future of work may be changing, with remote work becoming more popular and feasible. This can pose problems in creating a strong work culture.

However, if bosses and employees can work together to foster a positive and healthy work environment, everyone, including the bottom line, will benefit.

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Misc

Figures of Speech: 40 Ways to Improve your Writing

Figures of speech are important literary tools that can help improve your writing. Here are 40 different types, and how to use them.

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Figures of Speech: 40 Ways to Improve your Writing

View the high resolution of this infographic by clicking here.

Figurative speech plays an important role in our ability to communicate with one another. It helps create compelling narratives, and evoke emotion in readers.

With this in mind, this periodic table graphic by Visual Communication Guy groups the 40 different figures of speech into two distinct categories—schemes and tropes.

What’s the difference between the two, and how can they help improve your writing?

Types of Schemes

In linguistics, a scheme is language that plays with sentence structure to make a sentence smoother, or even more persuasive, using syntax, word order, or sounds.

Here are four different ways that schemes fiddle with sentence structure.

Balance

This is especially important when trying to make a sentence smoother. A good example of balance is parallelism, which is when you use the same grammatical form in at least two parts of a sentence.

  • Not parallelism: “She likes reading, writing, and to paint on the weekends.”
  • Parallelism: “She likes reading, writing, and painting on the weekends.”

Word Order

Changing the position of words can have an impact on the way a sentence is understood. For instance, anastrophe is the deliberate reordering of words in a sentence to either emphasize a certain point, or distinguish a character as different.

  • An example of anastrophe: “The greatest teacher, failure is.” -Yoda

Omission and/or Inclusion

Omissions and inclusions are useful in order to build suspense or add emotional expression to text. For example, an ellipsis is a form of punctuation that uses three dots (…) to either replace a word in a sentence or indicate a break in speech or an incomplete thought.

  • Example of an ellipsis: “I was thinking of calling her Susie. Well, at least I was until…never mind. Forget I said anything.”

Repetition

Similar to the other types of schemes, repetition allows you to emphasize a certain point you want the reader to pay attention to, but it’s also used to create rhymes and poetry.

A well-known literary device, alliteration uses the same consonant sound at the start of each word in a sentence. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same letter, so long as the sound is the same.

  • A popular example is this nursery rhyme: “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”
  • Another example: Phillip’s feet. (different letter, but same sound)

Types of Tropes

While schemes play around with the mechanics of a sentence, tropes stray from the literal or typical meanings to evoke emotion, and keep a reader engaged and interested.

Tropes help create an alternative sense of reality, using these five strategies.

Reference

These are literary devices that help paint a deeper picture of a concept, using a reference to something related, but different.

Metaphors and similes are common examples of references, but a lesser-known type of reference is a synecdoche, which is when a small part of something is used in reference to the thing as a whole.

  • An example of a synecdoche: “Check out my new wheels.” (where wheels refer to a car)

Wordplay & Puns

This type of literary device plays with sounds or meaning to add depth to a sentence. For instance, a syllepsis uses one word to create parallels between two separate thoughts, while an onomatopoeia is a figure of speech that uses words (either real or made-up) or even letters to describe a sound.

  • An example of a syllepsis: “When I address Fred I never have to raise either my voice or my hopes.” – E.B. White
  • An example of an onomatopoeia: “Ding-dong” (the sound of a doorbell)

Substitutions

This is when someone replaces a word or thought with something else. For instance, anthimeria is the use of a word in a grammatical form it’s not generally used in, while periphrasis is when someone intentionally elaborates on a point, instead of expressing it succinctly.

  • An anthimeria: “I could use a good sleep.” (Sleep is normally a verb, but here it’s used as a noun)
  • Example of a periphrasis: Instead of saying, “It’s cold outside.” you say, “The temperature of the atmosphere when I exited my home this morning was quite chilly and exceptionally uncomfortable.”

Overstatement and/or Understatement

These are intentionally exaggerated, or downplayed situations that aren’t meant to be taken literally. A hyperbole is an example of an overstatement, while litotes are the opposite—deliberate understatements.

  • An example of a hyperbole: I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse.
  • While a litotes looks like this: It’s not rocket science.

Inversions

This type of literary technique uses contradictory ideas and indirect questions for dramatic effect, or to emphasize a point. For instance, an oxymoron is when two contradictory words are used back-to-back.

  • An example of an oxymoron: Act natural

Using Figures of Speech to Craft Content

First, let’s just address it…Yes, I did use alliteration in the above header, and yes, now I’m using an ellipsis in this sentence.

Because let’s face it—in the age of information overload, writing articles that are interesting and compelling to readers is a top priority for online content creators. And using figurative language is a good way to keep readers attention.

So, if you’re a content creator yourself (or simply looking to beef up your knowledge on linguistics), hopefully this graphic has helped you on that journey.

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