“We can be blind to the obvious, and we can also be blind to our blindness.” — Daniel Kahneman
Know your biases to become a better thinker. One category of biases is attention biases.
Attention biases are mental shortcuts or cognitive patterns that influence our perception and interpretation of information in ways that may be biased or inaccurate.
This list covers 20 different cognitive biases that can affect our attention and perception.
These attention biases range from egocentric bias to confirmation bias to salience bias, and each one has the potential to distort our understanding of reality.
By being aware of these attention biases and how they operate, we can become better critical thinkers and make more informed decisions.
Whether you’re interested in psychology, business, or just want to better understand how your mind works, this list is a fascinating exploration of the quirks and limitations of human cognition.
What are Attention Biases?
Attention biases refer to the tendency of our attention to be selectively drawn to certain stimuli or information, while ignoring or de-prioritizing other stimuli or information.
These biases can be conscious or unconscious and can be influenced by a variety of factors, including personal beliefs, past experiences, emotions, and the context in which the information is presented.
Examples of attention biases include confirmation bias, negativity bias, and the framing effect.
Here are common attention biases:
- Attentional blink bias: This is the tendency to miss or overlook things that appear immediately after something that captures our attention.
- Availability cascade: This is the tendency to believe something is more likely to be true if we hear it repeated frequently.
- Change blindness: This is the inability to detect changes in our environment when they occur gradually or are not in our immediate focus.
- Confirmation bias: This is the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them.
- Egocentric bias: This is the tendency to see things from our own perspective and overestimate our own importance or contributions.
- Framing effect: This is the way in which information is presented can influence our perception of it, even if the information itself is the same.
- Inattentional blindness: This is the inability to perceive something that is in our field of vision, simply because we are not paying attention to it.
- Negativity bias: This is the tendency to focus more on negative information or experiences than positive ones.
- Neglect of probability: This is the tendency to overestimate the likelihood of rare or unusual events occurring, and underestimate the likelihood of common events occurring.
- Novelty bias: This is the tendency to be more attentive to new or unusual stimuli, and less attentive to familiar or repetitive stimuli.
- Omission bias: This is the tendency to judge harmful actions as worse than harmful inactions, even if the outcome is the same.
- Primacy effect: This is the tendency to remember things that occur first more vividly than things that occur later.
- Processing fluency bias: This is the tendency to prefer information that is presented in a clear and easy-to-understand way, even if it is not the most accurate.
- Recency effect: This is the tendency to remember things that occur last more vividly than things that occur earlier.
- Salience bias: This is the tendency to focus on information that is most noticeable or prominent, rather than information that is most important.
- Selective attention bias: This is the tendency to focus on specific aspects of a situation or environment, and ignore others.
- Self-serving bias: This is the tendency to attribute our own successes to personal qualities, and our own failures to external factors.
- Sunk cost fallacy: This is the tendency to continue investing time or resources into a project or goal, even if it is no longer rational to do so.
- Trait ascription bias: This is the tendency to attribute the behavior of others to their personality or character, rather than to situational factors.
- WYSIATI bias: WYSIATI stands for “What You See Is All There Is”. This is the tendency to believe that we have access to all relevant information when making a decision, and that our judgments are accurate as a result.
10 Examples of How to Use These Attention Biases to Think Better
Here are 10 examples of how knowing these attention biases can help us become better critical thinkers and make more informed decisions:
- Confirmation bias: Try to consider multiple perspectives and actively seek out information that challenges your existing beliefs to avoid blindly accepting information that supports your viewpoint.
Example: A manager is considering whether to promote an employee who has always been punctual, but he/she should also consider other factors like work quality, interpersonal skills, and potential to lead.
- Negativity bias: Consider the positive aspects of a situation in addition to the negative to avoid overreacting or making hasty decisions based solely on negative information.
Example: A teacher should praise a student who has made a few errors in their exam and recognize the progress made instead of solely focusing on the mistakes made.
- Salience bias: Be aware that important or eye-catching information can easily distract from other relevant factors that may be less noticeable.
Example: In a product decision-making process, the team should consider customer feedback, market trends, as well as technical feasibility, instead of just solely focusing on one single factor.
- Framing effect: Consider how the presentation of information can impact decision-making, and strive to approach situations with an open mind.
Example: When trying to persuade others, a salesperson can highlight the benefits of their product in addition to the price to create a more comprehensive picture.
- Egocentric bias: Be mindful of personal biases and try to view situations from others’ perspectives to avoid overvaluing one’s own opinions and experiences.
Example: A student should take the teacher’s feedback positively and try to implement them, instead of ignoring it or taking it negatively.
- Trait ascription bias: Be careful not to rely too heavily on personality or character judgments when evaluating people’s actions or behavior, and instead consider external factors that may have influenced their actions.
Example: Instead of labeling someone as “lazy” for not meeting a deadline, consider other factors such as workload, time constraints, and resources available.
- Inattentional blindness: Be aware that we may miss important details or information when we are overly focused on a particular task or issue.
Example: A person driving a car should be attentive to the road conditions, traffic, and signs, rather than just solely focusing on the music or other distractions in the car.
- Processing fluency bias: Be mindful that our brain tends to prefer information that is easy to process, which can result in us undervaluing information that is more complex or difficult to understand.
Example: A manager should not overlook a proposal that is more detailed or complicated, but should take the time to understand the proposal fully before making a decision.
- Availability cascade: Avoid overvaluing information that is repeatedly presented and widely accepted without questioning its accuracy or legitimacy.
Example: A person should not believe in rumors without verifying the source and authenticity of the information.
- Omission bias: Be aware that our inaction or failure to act can have consequences just like our actions.
Example: An employee who fails to report a potential safety hazard to their employer can be just as responsible for any resulting accidents as the person who created the hazard.
Know Your Biases to Become a Better Thinker
Understanding the different attention biases can help us become better critical thinkers and make more informed decisions in our work, life, and school.
By recognizing the biases that affect our perceptions, we can overcome them and make more objective assessments of the world around us.
The key is to be mindful of our thought processes and to actively question our assumptions.
By doing so, we can make more accurate judgments, avoid making hasty decisions, and ultimately lead more successful and fulfilling lives.
So, take the time to learn about these attention biases, and use them as tools to sharpen your critical thinking skills and improve your decision-making abilities.
You Might Also Like
Big List of Biases
Scotoma: Why You Can’t See What’s Right in Front of You
How Labeling Others Distorts Your Thinking
How To Improve Your Critical Thinking
How To Practice Precision Questions and Answers