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Check your biases

International poker champion Liv Boeree teaches you how to sidestep three cognitive biases that can compromise your decision-making.

In this video, international poker champion Liv Boeree teaches you how to sidestep three cognitive biases that can compromise your decision-making.

High-stakes poker is decision-making distilled to its essence. As such, if you know what you’re seeing, it’s a masterclass in the powers and perils of human reasoning.

Confirmation Bias: The tendency to overvalue evidence that confirms one’s existing beliefs and undervalue evidence that contradicts those beliefs
Evaluate your thought process.
  • Ask yourself: Am I looking for signs that prove what I want to believe? Am I dismissing signs that disprove what I want to believe?*
  • Search for contrary evidence that challenges your intuition. This will give you a more accurate perspective.

Status Quo Bias: A preference for how things are done now or have been done in the past
  • We tend to not want to change our methodology because it’s worked in the past or because it’s familiar.
  • Humans have a strong aversion to change because we fear uncertainty.
  • When faced with information that says the status quo isn’t working, take note of any resistance to change.

The Sunk Cost Fallacy: Making a decision based on previously invested resources rather than future desired outcomes
  • If new information invalidates your planned course of action, stop yourself.
  • No matter how much time, money or effort you’ve invested to this point, ignore past decisions.
  • You’re in an entirely new situation. Re-evaluate, taking all the information you now have into account.

These three biases are ever-present and pernicious. They masquerade as “common sense” and easily convince us to accept faulty reasoning at face value. To counteract them, cultivate the habit of deliberately working against them— overcoming confirmation bias, for example, by looking for evidence that disconfirms your preferences (as opposed to confirming them). This isn’t to say that your intuition is always wrong . . . just that it’s fallible, and warrants a second opinion.

Over to you

After you watch the video consider the following questions. Where appropriate, feel free to share your thoughts with your fellow learners in the comments below.

  • Where, in your experience, does human reasoning fall short or reveal itself as imperfect?
  • Why isn’t our judgment as infallible as tend to think it is?
  • In the context of your current role at the company, where might confirmation bias, sunk cost fallacy and status quo bias come up? Think of specific examples. How might you counteract them?
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Critical and Strategic Thinking in Practice

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