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  • Danielle Raja

Week #5: Cognitive Bias

This week I learned a lot about Cognitive Bias and how it affects teachers and learners alike. Specifically, we focused on the 20 listed below. The infographic here emphasizes business ideas, so I've listed descriptions below related to teaching and learning.

The infographic above comes from Business Insider Australia. In it, the author/creators (Samantha Lee & Darke Baer) show us 20 different Cognitive BIases rooted in behavioral theories that can affect how we teach and learn. Here's a really thorough article, also from BI, that discusses 61 Cognitive Biases by Shana Lebowitz, Allana Akhtar, and Marguerite Ward)


By recognizing my own biases, I hope to become a better teacher. Acknowledging that my students will struggle with biases as well is part of this.


Without further ado, here are my descriptions of these biases and how I think they may affect my future learners (and me!).


  1. Anchoring Bias: we are likely to place the most emphasis on the first information presented to us.

  • Students: likely to believe that the first topic presented is most important and may believe the instructor is more likely to test on it


2. Availability Heuristic: we are most likely to use information that is easy to recall (ahem, teachers- lets remember that learning is most effective when it's hard)

  • Students: using readily available memories may not give the full picture and may result in poorly constructed conclusions

3. Bandwagon Effect: we like to do the same things that everyone else is doing

  • Students: particularly in group work, this type of bias can be detrimental when the most vocal or largest group have the wrong information

4. Blind-Spot Bias: a failure to notice your own biases

  • Students: may suffer from a high enough Cognitive Load that they can't even consider their own biases

5. Choice-Supportive Bias: when we reflect on choices/decisions made, we are likely to reinforce our own reasoning

6. Clustering Illusion: our minds create patterns where there are none, we try to create order out of chaos

7. Confirmation Bias: we like to focus on information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs

  • Students: may study material related to knowledge they already have, thus reinforcing pre-existing knowledge, rather than focus on material that seems more challenging or unknown

  • Learning is HARD!


8. Conservatism Bias: we are likely to focus on our pre-existing ideas/knowledge rather than learn new things

  • Students: this one is rather self explanatory. Learning is hard so people try to avoid it

9. Information Bias: we tend to believe that the more information we have, the better decisions we can make (not true)

  • Students: may get bogged down with learning too may details. Encourage them to learn what they need to at their level (novice to expert)

10. Ostrich Effect: we like to ignore bad or negative information

  • Students: may avoid or ignore negative feedback

11. Outcome Bias: using the outcome to judge a decision, after the fact

  • Students: may justify massed practice (cramming) if the recent test showed a good score, though overall learning was minimal

12. Overconfidence: the more knowledge we gain on a particular topic, the more likely we are to believe we are correct (experts are more likely to suffer from this than novices)

  • Students: may be more confident in their knowledge than they should be (particularly if they are studying utilizing massed practice rather than spacing and/or interleaving)


13. Placebo Effect: believing in something may influence the outcome

  • Students: those who believe a topic is too difficult for them to understand may fulfill that prophesy

14. Pro-Innovation Bias: those who believe in new ideas are likely to focus on the positive rather than the flaws

15. Recency: we are more likely to believe new information over the old

  • Students: newly learned information is easier to recall and studying it makes them think they know their material well. Recalling older information is harder but is a very necessary part of learning


16. Salience: we like to focus on bright/flashy/new/different things

  • Students: are more likely to remember information that is noteworthy in some way

17. Selective Perception: we are more likely to learn things that are interesting to us

  • Students: not everyone will find the topic you are teaching/learning interesting. Engaging learners who are not interested may be especially challenging

18. Stereotyping: we all know this one- generalizing characteristics to an entire group based on few characteristics/little information

  • Students: may make general assumptions based upon little information.

19. Survivorship Bias: history is written by the victors, and survivorship bias is just another way to look at it. We tend to focus on successes and ignore failure

  • Students: failure is an important part of learning, however, a great emphasis has been placed on achievement. Students may find it difficult to accept feedback which demonstrates their own 'failures.'

20. Zero-Risk Bias: we like to know that we will be successful, we avoid the risk of failure, but we are more likely to engage in risky behavior when there is no risk



(Maybe not, but it's a great first step!)



Whew! This was a long one. I hope this is helpful to everyone, I know that I got a lot out of writing it!


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