The Psychology World Podcast- Episode 2- Thinking Biases


So today's episode is on thinking biases. Now, this topic of psychology, I absolutely love to be honest, because I find it amazing that as, as humans we think we are so essentially it god like, we are so clever when it comes to thinking because we can make split decisions. We can be really quick, we can make informed decisions.


However, I don't know. I just thought, I find it amazing that there was so many simple biases. That make our thinking flawed and that's what we're going to explore in this episode, which I'm really looking forward to. So what are thinking biases, it is essentially something that makes our thinking flawed.


Now, when I learned this topic originally in the IB, there were three biases that we learned but I have picked two, which are the most easiest to remember. I just wanted to focus on what was easiest and what was the most interesting, because the other bias that we're not going to look at is called the anchor bias, which, forgive me, but I've not looked at the anchor bias for ages however, if memory recalls it's that you anchor your thinking based on one bit of information, which if the information is flawed, then it leads to flawed thinking.


So the two biases we’ll look at are the framing effect, which I love. I cannot stress enough how much I love the framing effect. Well, I think it's honestly amazing.


Now, the framing effect simply states that depending on how you frame the information, it results in a certain thinking pattern.


Tversky and Kahneman (1981)

They used 307 us undergraduate students, which were voluteers and then the students were asked. We're given a scenario about the US being infected by a strange Asian virsus that was meant to be kill exactly 600 people and then these are people were splitting into two conditions. The positively framed group and then the negative group, and then within each of these groups, people were given information about programs to combat this outbreak.

Programme A was that 200 people will be saved.


Programme B was that there’s a one third chance that 600 people will be saved but a two third chance that 600 people will die. So what would you choose in that this form? Because personally, actually no. First of all, I'm going to give you a few seconds to think about it.

So what would you choose? Programme A 200 people will be saved, or would you choose program B where there's a one third chance that 600 people will be saved them, or there's a two third chances that 600 people will die. Think about it for a moment.


So that was for the positive framing the group.


However, there was another group where the information was framed more negatively. So programme C was that 400 people will die. There's no doubt about it. These people are going to die.


However, program D is that there's a one third chance nobody will die but there's a two third chance 600 people will died.


So what would you choose? I'll give you a minute to think about it.


So now that you've chosen both of your programs, I'm going to tell you the results. In the positively framed group people tended to choose the certain outcomes because 72% of people chose program A were 200 people will be saved.


So as you can see, this positive conditions, when information is framing positively, people focus on certainties, like 200 people will be saved compared to uncertainty, were there’s a two third chance of people dying.


However, if you notice all of these conditions are technically the same. Because in all of them, 200 people will be saved and 400 people will essentially die.


However, if we moved to the negative condition where the information is framed negatively, 78% of people chose program D, which is where there's a one-third chance that nobody will die and 2/3 that 600 people will die.


So as you can see in this condition, when information is framed negatively, people will tend to go for the uncertainty because there's a chance that everyone will live compared to the 400 people, that will definitely die. So as you can see in this study, the framing effect can be a thinking bias because as you can see, all of these scenarios, all of these programs are the same, and the framing effect leads to people not noticing this and people favoring one condition over the other.


Now they have a lot of real world implications about this, which I find fascinating. So saying once you can even link this to persuasion, which I did a blog post on a few weeks ago and at university I'm going to mention the framing effect in my persuasion essay for my coursework.

So in conclusion, the framing effect is a thinking bias because if the information is framed negatively then people favor uncertainty. However, when information is framed positively, people prefer certainty.


A positive of this study is that because of its board implications potentially it does have high ecological validity, which is good as it can be applied to the real world.


However, I said potentially because of this scenario, which is where the USA is affected by a strange Asian virus killing only 600 people, there's a problem, that I personally have this study- it is not ecologically valid because you would never find this in the real world. Where undergraduates who haven't got any degrees will be given such an important choice about which Health program to use. So to improve this study, I would definitely give them more ecologically valid scenario, which shouldn't be that hard to be honest, as this has such a wide range of real world implications.


For example, investments. You could use because as college students, I imagine that most of them would be wanting to make quite a bit of money. So you could give them a list of a choices about a different investment opportunities.


And you could essentially do the exact same experiment and give them different choices. For example, you could effectively say that there's a two third chance of the money being lost. However, there's a third chance that they could make a million that would be very ecologically valid because investment opportunities are used all over the place.


That's just my opinion. We're going to move on to another favourite of mine called the peak end bias. I think it is just great because it is true. So the peak end bias is but it's actually called the peak end rule states that people only remember the most interesting part of an event. And at the end of an event, for example, you could be out at a restaurant and you can have the most amazing food. You can have great service.


However, let's say that one of the other guests at the restaurant decided to pick a fight with you, and that was the most interesting part of the evening. That would be the peak. And let's say at the end of evening, your credit cards got declined constantly. So you've spent about half an hour trying to figure out a way how to pay for your meal.


So that would be the end. So overall, later on, let's say like an hour or two later, somebody asks you how was your meal? You are really likely to say that the meal was awful because of those two things, without considering the great food and the great service.


Kahneman (1994)

The researchers got participants to place one hand in a painfully code of water. Whilst on the other hand they needed to show how much pain they were in. 1 finger indicated they were experiencing no pain then 5 fingers was extreme pain.


There were two conditions, condition 1 was were they needed to place their hand in the painfully cold water was for 60 seconds but they also asked to do another condition, which is when they needed to put their hand in cold water for 60 seconds. However, they had to do it for another 30 seconds as well. But in this last 30 seconds so between 60 seconds and 90 seconds they opened a value which caused the water temperature to increase by one degree.


And then at the subjects were told that they needed to do another trial, but then you could choose so they could choose condition 1, which was 60 seconds, or they are at 2nd condition. So logically speaking, it makes a lot more sense to go for condition one because you only experience pain for 60 seconds.


So it makes sense.


However, 80% of the subjects decided to do condition 2 because of the slight decrease of pain towards the end. So this study effectively shows how the peak end rule works in a research setting.


It shows that decision making is flawed because if it wasn't, then the 80% should have chose condition one. Okay.


So moving on to our critical thinking section section. This study is a very effective study because it does show that the peak end rule doesn’t cause a bias in thinking and it does have an impact on that behavior.


However, though, as with all research, you cannot confirm that this was 100% the peak end rule because there could have been other factors involved and as always that could have led to the person choosing to do the second condition.


That was nothing to do with do with the peak end rule and therefore if I was to do the study again then I would conducted semi structured interviews with the participants to try and clear up this matter because in these interviews you can ask them a questions and you could eliminate some possibilities.


For example, they could have chosen the second condition because I don't know, something quite like trivial, for example, they could have just liked the warm water. Therefore, this would not have been down to the peak end rule.


These interviews would have helped the researcher to eliminate some other possibilities for this.


Okay, so now what have we looked at our studies and we've done all critical thinking- let’s bring everything into one cohesive whole. So we know that decision making is a flawed because we all have so many examples in everyday life, which is where we pick less logical answers.


And then. We look at back and question why didn't we choose them? The reason why we didn't choose them was that because of these thinking biases. I've just shown you. But there are many more out there. So we looked at the framing effect and the framing effect demostrates that depending on how the inflammation is framed; either positively or negatively; it can influence our thinking to become bias.


When information is framed positively people tend to go with the certain outcomes and when the information is framed negatively people to go for the uncertain outcomes.


However, there's another bias called the peak end of rule were you only remember the most interesting part of an event and the end and because of this it causes a bias in your thinking.

So I hope you enjoyed today's episode. And if you want to know more about cognitive psychology in our general then I recommend getting my book for more easy to understand psychology concepts.


It's a cognitive psychology by Connor Whiteley.


Have a great week everyone!

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