Cognitive Biases: Three Common Types Illustrated
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Cognitive Biases: Three Common Types Illustrated

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In a world of information overload, we can fall victim to all sorts of cognitive biases. Since they can lead us to generate false conclusions, it’s particularly important to understand what these biases are and how they work, as the consequences can become quite drastic.

Confirmation bias, sampling bias, and brilliance bias are three examples that can affect our ability to critically engage with information. Jono Hey of Sketchplanations walks us through these cognitive bias examples, to help us better understand how they influence our day-to-day lives.

Confirmation Bias

Cognitive Bias Examples - Confirmation

One of the most-commonly encountered and understood, you’re likely to have already heard about confirmation bias. This cognitive bias affects the way we test and evaluate hypotheses every day.

In simple terms, confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out or interpret evidence in such a way that supports our own strongly-held beliefs or expectations. This means that, given access to the same set of data and information, different people can come to wildly differing conclusions.

Feeding into confirmation bias can lead us to make ill-informed choices or even reinforce negative stereotypes. For this reason, it is important to remember to seek out information that both confirms and contradicts your presumptions about a certain topic.

Sampling Bias

Cognitive Bias Examples - Sampling

Sampling bias is a kind of bias that allows us to come to faulty conclusions based on inaccurate sample groups or data. Generally, the cause of sample bias is in poor study design and data collection.

When polling individuals for survey questions, it is important to get a representative picture of an entire population. But this can prove surprisingly difficult when the people generating the study are also prone to human flaws, including cognitive biases.

A common example involves conducting a survey on which political party is likely to win an election. If the study is run by a professor who only polls college students, since they are around and therefore easier to collect information from, the poll will not accurately reflect the opinions of the general population.

To avoid sampling bias, it is important to randomize data collection to ensure responses are not skewed towards individuals with similar characteristics.

Brilliance Bias

Cognitive Bias Examples - Brilliance

Brilliance bias is another common cognitive bias that makes us more likely to think of genius as a masculine trait. This is in part due to the lack of female representation in both traditional academic and executive positions.

In fact, The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology published an in-depth study on brilliance bias in 2020. It suggests that a likely source of this bias is in the uneven distribution of men and women across careers typically associated with higher level intelligence.

While this distribution is a remnant of historical factors that limited access to education and career choices for women in the past, its presence has made us (wrongly) conclude that women are less brilliant instead. Naturally, as the cycle perpetuates the uneven distribution of women in these careers, it only reinforces this bias.

Other Cognitive Bias Examples

These few examples from Jono Hey give a good overview of some of the biases we face when trying to understand the data given to us, but they are just the tip of the iceberg.

It is important to be cognizant of these biases in an era where we are constantly engaging with information, especially if we want to combat some of the harmful consequences they entail.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Science

Visualizing the Relationship Between Cancer and Lifespan

New research links mutation rates and lifespan. We visualize the data supporting this new framework for understanding cancer.

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Cancer and lifespan

A Newfound Link Between Cancer and Aging?

A new study in 2022 reveals a thought-provoking relationship between how long animals live and how quickly their genetic codes mutate.

Cancer is a product of time and mutations, and so researchers investigated its onset and impact within 16 unique mammals. A new perspective on DNA mutation broadens our understanding of aging and cancer development—and how we might be able to control it.

Mutations, Aging, and Cancer: A Primer

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells. It is not a pathogen that infects the body, but a normal body process gone wrong.

Cells divide and multiply in our bodies all the time. Sometimes, during DNA replication, tiny mistakes (called mutations) appear randomly within the genetic code. Our bodies have mechanisms to correct these errors, and for much of our youth we remain strong and healthy as a result of these corrective measures.

However, these protections weaken as we age. Developing cancer becomes more likely as mutations slip past our defenses and continue to multiply. The longer we live, the more mutations we carry, and the likelihood of them manifesting into cancer increases.

A Biological Conundrum

Since mutations can occur randomly, biologists expect larger lifeforms (those with more cells) to have greater chances of developing cancer than smaller lifeforms.

Strangely, no association exists.

It is one of biology’s biggest mysteries as to why massive creatures like whales or elephants rarely seem to experience cancer. This is called Peto’s Paradox. Even stranger: some smaller creatures, like the naked mole rat, are completely resistant to cancer.

This phenomenon motivates researchers to look into the genetics of naked mole rats and whales. And while we’ve discovered that special genetic bonuses (like extra tumor-suppressing genes) benefit these creatures, a pattern for cancer rates across all other species is still poorly understood.

Cancer May Be Closely Associated with Lifespan

Researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute report the first study to look at how mutation rates compare with animal lifespans.

Mutation rates are simply the speed at which species beget mutations. Mammals with shorter lifespans have average mutation rates that are very fast. A mouse undergoes nearly 800 mutations in each of its four short years on Earth. Mammals with longer lifespans have average mutation rates that are much slower. In humans (average lifespan of roughly 84 years), it comes to fewer than 50 mutations per year.

The study also compares the number of mutations at time of death with other traits, like body mass and lifespan. For example, a giraffe has roughly 40,000 times more cells than a mouse. Or a human lives 90 times longer than a mouse. What surprised researchers was that the number of mutations at time of death differed only by a factor of three.

Such small differentiation suggests there may be a total number of mutations a species can collect before it dies. Since the mammals reached this number at different speeds, finding ways to control the rate of mutations may help stall cancer development, set back aging, and prolong life.

The Future of Cancer Research

The findings in this study ignite new questions for understanding cancer.

Confirming that mutation rate and lifespan are strongly correlated needs comparison to lifeforms beyond mammals, like fishes, birds, and even plants.

It will also be necessary to understand what factors control mutation rates. The answer to this likely lies within the complexities of DNA. Geneticists and oncologists are continuing to investigate genetic curiosities like tumor-suppressing genes and how they might impact mutation rates.

Aging is likely to be a confluence of many issues, like epigenetic changes or telomere shortening, but if mutations are involved then there may be hopes of slowing genetic damage—or even reversing it.

While just a first step, linking mutation rates to lifespan is a reframing of our understanding of cancer development, and it may open doors to new strategies and therapies for treating cancer or taming the number of health-related concerns that come with aging.

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Misc

Visualizing Which Countries Drink the Most Beer

Which countries drink the most beer? China ranks number one due to its sheer size, and the Czech Republic comes out on top, per capita.

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Visualizing Which Countries Drink the Most Beer

Humans have been drinking beer for thousands of years—and since it’s still one of the most popular beverages worldwide, it seems we haven’t gotten sick of it yet. The latest available data shows that beer consumption exceeded 177 million kiloliters around the world in 2020.

Beer consumption occurs all over the world, but the amount varies greatly depending on the location. So, which countries drink the most beer?

This graphic uses data from Kirin Holdings to compare global beer consumption by country. Kirin is a Japanese company that has been tracking beer consumption around the world since 1975.

Which Countries Drink the Most Beer?

When it comes to total beer consumption, China ranks number one.

In 2020, the country’s consumption reached 36 million kiloliters—that’s enough beer to fill more than 14,000 Olympic-sized pools. The country accounts for a whopping one-fifth of total beer consumption worldwide. Archaeological evidence also suggests that China has a beer producing history that goes back thousands of years.

Here’s a look at the top 25 countries for beer consumption, and their global market share:

Ranking 2020CountryTotal Consumption
(thousand kl)
Global Market
Share
1🇨🇳​ China36,08820.30%
2🇺🇸​ United States of America24,10513.60%
3🇧🇷​ Brazil13,8477.80%
4🇷🇺​ Russia8,6464.90%
5🇲🇽​ Mexico8,2874.70%
6🇩🇪​ Germany7,7464.40%
7🇯🇵 Japan4,4162.50%
8​🇬🇧​ United Kingdom4,0882.30%
9🇻🇳​ Vietnam3,8452.20%
10🇪🇸 Spain3,8152.10%
11​🇵🇱 Poland3,6332.00%
12​🇿🇦​ South Africa3,2841.90%
13🇨🇴​ Colombia2,2461.30%
14🇫🇷 France1,9841.10%
15​🇨🇦​ Canada1,9791.10%
16🇨🇿 Czech Republic1,9461.10%
17​🇰🇷 South Korea1,9361.10%
18​🇮🇹​ Italy1,8861.10%
19🇺🇦​ Ukraine1,8811.10%
20🇷🇴​ Romania1,8281.00%
21🇦🇺 Australia1,8251.00%
22🇦🇷​ Argentina1,7971.00%
23​🇮🇳 India1,6860.90%
24🇹🇭 Thailand1,6800.90%
25​​🇵🇭​ Philippines1,4620.80%
Rest of the World31,56317.78%

China is the most populous country in the world, accounting for about 18% of the global population. Of course, a large population doesn’t necessarily translate to high beer consumption at the individual level. For instance, India, which has the second highest population in the world, ranks 23rd on the list for beer consumption, and only accounts for 1% of what foamy liquid gets guzzled down each year.

The U.S. comes second on the list, with more than 24 million kiloliters of beer consumed throughout the country in 2020. Americans don’t just drink a lot of beer—they brew a lot of beer, too. The U.S. is the second-largest beer producer worldwide (after China).

Beer Consumption Per Capita

Things look a bit different when you look at beer consumption per capita, rather than total beer consumption. The Czech Republic comes in first when it comes to beer consumption per capita.

In 2020, the average Czech drank more than 181 liters of beer.

chart showing beer consumption per capita by country in 2022

The Czech Republic is well-known for inexpensive beer. Some travel sites even claim that, in certain parts of the country, beer can be cheaper than bottled water.

International Beer Day

While consumption levels vary across the world, beer is an integral part of many countries’ cultures. In fact, the beverage is so popular, that it’s been given its own day. International Beer Day is celebrated on the first Friday of every August in over 200 cities across the globe.

Cheers, and happy sipping!

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