Biases in thinking and decision-making

Screenshot 2020-08-01 at 12.30.39Human beings are not always rational thinkers. Instead they rely on intuitive thinking and take cognitive shortcuts resulting in a number of well-researched biases.

The tendency to focus on a limited amount of available information, to seek out information that confirms pre-existing beliefs as well as the tendency to avoid the mental stress of holding inconsistent cognitions seem to be common sources of biases in thinking and decision-making.

Relevant concepts related to studying factors involved in biased thinking and decision-making could be but are not limited to …

  • rational versus intuitive thinking
  • heuristics
  • algorithms
  • anchoring
  • framing and representativenes
  • cognitive biases:
    • confirmation bias—the tendency to seek out information to confirm what you already believe: Confirmation bias
    • cognitive dissonance—a so-called motivational bias that focuses on personal motivation for selection and interpretation of information so that your cognitions are consistent with your decisions and/or behaviour
    • optimism bias—the tendency to think that nothing bad will ever happen to you
    • selective attention—the tendency to focus on a limited amount of stimuli when several are occurring at the same time
    • illusory correlations—the tendency to incorrectly identify correlations where there are none, as for example in “implicit personality theories”.


Assessment Questions

SAQ: Describe one bias in thinking and decision-making with reference to one research study. (9)

I would use peak-end rule and Kahneman et al. (1993) here but you could use any other cognitive bias and an illustrative study, we looked at several in the PowerPoint and you may have come across others in your reading, the key however is knowing the study’s APFC in sufficient depth and ensuring you have explicitly explained the bias using the findings of the study.

For paper 2 clinical, you will learn about confirmation bias (CB) in psychiatric diagnosis and a study by Mendel (2011). I have written this model SAQ using CB and Mendel (2011) to show you how paper 2 material can be used to answer Paper 1 questions.

SAQ bias in thinking and decision – Mendel


  • Discuss one or more biases in thinking and decision-making with reference to research evidence. (22)
  • Evaluate research into one or more biases in thinking and decision-making. (22)

For an ERQ you could choose peak end rule and confirmation bias and look at both Kahneman (1993) and Mendel (2011).