3 New Cognitive Biases That Exist Because of Technology

Psychology Oct 21, 2020

If you don't know what a cognitive bias is, the first definition that appears on Google says:

A cognitive bias is a systematic error in thinking that occurs when people are processing and interpreting information in the world around them and affects the decisions and judgments that they make.

Or more simply put, a flaw in your brain's logic that might seem justified but isn't. One of my favorite cognitive biases is the anchoring effect and you can read my explanation of what that is here.

For whatever reason, I like to keep track of cognitive biases because there are a ton of them out there and it's good to brush up on them every once in a while.

Just recently, I found three more that haven't existed up until recently because of this thing we all have access to called the internet and technology.

Automation Bias

The first new cognitive bias is called the Automation Bias.

It's defined as — "the propensity for humans to favor suggestions from automated decision-making systems and to ignore contradictory information made without automation, even if it is correct."

Essentially this bias exists when we put too much trust in technology. But that begs the question, how can you put too much trust in technology? A calculator isn't going to lie to us. Will it?

Yet the trust in technology we have goes beyond just assuming a certain program will work because... well... it's programmed to work a certain way.

An example of this is when your phone tries to correct a spelling mistake. If you used it's instead of its in a sentence and your phone tries to correct you, you don't usually question it. Maybe sometimes, but not always.

But we have so much trust in technology — not to say that we shouldn't — but we always assume the programs on our phones or computers are working the way they should and are smarter than us.

It's a cognitive bias because while technology is typically right, there are instances where human input might not work with what the programs are looking for.

There are still instances where you can think back to a time when you weren't sure of something so you used a phone to look it up; spelling mistakes being the best example. You're not usually going to question if it's wrong, but that brings the thought that maybe in the past there were times when it was wrong but we didn't question it.

While fighting this cognitive bias is necessary, it's not a huge one, but it's one to consider nonetheless. Not too long ago there wasn't a cloud of information that was so powerful you always assumed it had all the right answers. Sometimes it may give what it thinks is a right answer, but is not the answer you were looking for.

Google Affect

Also known as Digital Amnesia, this cognitive bias is an interesting one to think about because it's similar to the automation bias in the amount we take off our shoulders by giving the work to technology.

This bias is defined as — "the tendency to forget information that can be found readily online by using Internet search engines."

If you ever had to look up some piece of information, crucial or not, you get your answer and you don't make an effort to remember.

Maybe you wanted to go to a restaurant but you didn't know their hours on a Saturday, so you look it up. It's not crucial that you remember it, but it's a simple to remember time associated with a place that you don't need to forget, it's just too convenient and easy to look it up again when you need to.

Or as a writer when you need to check whether you are supposed to use affect or effect in a certain context, it might take you Googling it a few times for you to actually remember the fourth or fifth time.

This cognitive bias is one that exists because we are so used to looking things up. Although it's like trying to visualize infinity, we all know we have access to all the information we could ever need. And won't it always be there? So what's the point in trying to remember when we can just pull out our phones and check once more.

Third-person effect

The third-person effect is one that exists now in the age of information due to the amount of outreach some people have and the opinions we see online.

The definition of this effect predicts that — "people tend to perceive that mass media messages have a greater effect on others than on themselves, based on personal biases."

With the election coming up for us United States residents, this is one that we can associate with and think up examples of doing this pretty quickly.

I don't know about you, but I don't remember the last time I saw a slam piece on a politician during a commercial break that I actually listened to and took into consideration. Those commercials make me angry because the ones that are spewing hate at someone are obviously not going to change my opinion.

Yet I still believe there are people at home watching and listening wholeheartedly to the slam piece believing everything the commercial is telling them and buying into why they shouldn't vote for a candidate.

While those commercials exist because they do have an impact, the cognitive bias in this example comes from believing something on the media has a greater effect on others versus yourself.

Everyone seems to think, "my opinion is mine," while simultaneously believing everyone else is just easily manipulated into agreeing with something.

A good way I found to fight this cognitive bias is to just talk and relate to those around me. I don't think my best friends will buy into something that easily, so I shouldn't always think the same about others.

Cognitive biases are something everyone should be aware of because they don't go away. They exist purely because our perception of the world isn't 100% accurate and will always be flawed in some way, even if we think we are only using logic.

The brain is an efficient tool and if it discovers shortcuts in thinking, it will try and use those same shortcuts in places where it shouldn't.


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