Cognitive Bias Codex (updated)

Philosophers have long been interested in how we make sense of the world and how thinking goes wrong. Since some of the most interesting work on these topics in recent decades has been done in social psychology on cognitive biases (even acknowledging this), philosophers should at least be acquainted with some of that research—as some already are.

There’s now a new helpful introductory resource on cognitive biases, authored by Buster Benson. He has summarized and organized a bunch of biases in a very reader-friendly article, “Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet.”

Human thought faces “four giant problems”, he says:

  1. Information overload sucks, so we aggressively filter.
  2. Lack of meaning is confusing, so we fill in the gaps.
  3. Need to act fast lest we lose our chance, so we jump to conclusions.
  4. This isn’t getting easier, so we try to remember the important bits.

And our solutions to these problems themselves have problems:

  1. We don’t see everything. Some of the information we filter out is actually useful and important.
  2. Our search for meaning can conjure illusions. We sometimes imagine details that were filled in by our assumptions, and construct meaning and stories that aren’t really there.
  3. Quick decisions can be seriously flawed. Some of the quick reactions and decisions we jump to are unfair, self-serving, and counter-productive.
  4. Our memory reinforces errors. Some of the stuff we remember for later just makes all of the above systems more biased, and more damaging to our thought processes.

The article describes various cognitive biases in light of these four categories. Check it out.

Also check out the amazing visualization of this categorization that appears at the bottom of Benson’s article, created by John Manoogian III, reproduced below and available for purchase here.





(Thanks to Kenny Easwaran for bringing this to my attention.)

UPDATE: A revised version of the Cognitive Bias Codex includes descriptions of the biases.

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lorraine eustice
lorraine eustice
7 years ago

jeez i want to comment, but i’ve only scanned the info. it’s alot! i’d like to get a pillowcase with this info on it, then do the edgar cayce thing.

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
7 years ago

Thanks very much for this invaluable guide. Every philosopher should try to be familiar with cognitive bias and the way it operates. It is especially important in political and moral philosophy where there is a tendency to engage in black and white thinking under which bias only exists in those who disagree with us.

John Brady
6 years ago

Yes, great graphic of invaluable insights. IMO it is an incomplete list, and it really needs a short decriptor of each. I made a poster that contains 220+ cognitive biases, and includes a definition of each.