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Christophe Colombier
Christophe Colombier

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Discover your cognitive biases 🧠🤔, and how to deal with them 💪🤩 !

I started talking about psychological/cognitive biases in my previous article

I will try to dig further in this post.

Why am I talking about that ?

We are on, we are devs. We are here to code. Well, it's one way to see things. Now understand, everyone, including you is influenced by these biases. Which means that when you do something at work, at home, in open-source, outside. You are applying false-assumption, and other people are also doing it.

Already bored ? Scroll down, and jump to Conclusion.

Otherwise, give me a chance: Imposter Syndrome and Super Hero Complex are some of them. I'll talk about them, just keep reading.

First you need to understand the logic of communication channels

Communication theory

It can be summarized like this:

  • 🧠 What you want the say: the idea, things that happen in your brain
  • 🗣️ What you say: the way, words, pause, attitude
  • 👂🦻🎶 What the other hear: the reception, noise, attention
  • 🥰😮‍💨 How the other accept it: the perception, current mood, interest for you
  • 🧠 What the other understand: the analysis, conclusion
  • ↩️ What the other replies you (and here the loop starts back by inverting who is talking and who is receiving)

Everything can interfere, at any single steps, especially human brain, so the ones with a 🧠

What is a cognitive bias ?

Cognitive biases are systematic patterns of deviation from norm and/or rationality in judgment. These biases affect belief formation, reasoning processes, business and economic decisions, and human behavior in general. They can be caused by a number of factors, including mental shortcuts known as heuristics, emotions, individual motivations, limits on the mind's ability to process information, and social pressures.

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Why do we have biases ?

Cognitive biases can lead to distorted thinking, but they also serve an adaptive purpose by allowing us to reach decisions quickly, which can be vital in dangerous or threatening situations.

They were useful when we were in danger as cavemen. Information was important: where is the food? Did you see a mammoth ? A tiger ? really ? when ?

caveman doing dev

Let's go back to biases now, and try to put them in some categories.

The good

Sorry, there are no biases we could consider as positive on day-to-day work.

No one there

The bad

These don't help you. You have to deal with them.

  • Actor-observer bias: Attributing one's own actions to external causes while attributing others' behaviors to internal causes.

  • Optimism bias: Believing one is less likely to suffer from misfortune and more likely to attain success than peers.

  • Anchoring bias: Relying too heavily on the first piece of information learned.

  • Attentional bias: Paying attention to some things while ignoring others.

  • Availability heuristic: Placing greater value on information that comes to mind quickly.

  • Functional fixedness: Seeing objects as only working in a particular way.

  • False consensus effect: Overestimating how much other people agree with you.

  • Misinformation effect: Tendency for post-event information to interfere with the memory of the original event.

  • Survivorship bias: a form of selection bias that can lead to overly optimistic beliefs because multiple failures are overlooked.

  • Imposter Syndrome: psychological pattern where individuals doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud." Despite external evidence of their competence, they attribute their success to luck, timing, or external factors, rather than their own skills and efforts.

Hey, you know the Imposter Syndrome, right ? 😁

Imposter Syndrome

The ugly

These are your own enemy.

  • Hero Syndrome (aka Savior complex) The Hero Complex, also known as the Hero Syndrome or Savior Complex, is a psychological phenomenon where individuals strive to be the hero of every situation, often creating or exacerbating problems to save the day and take credit for the solution.

Ever fell only you can do something the right way ?

You know what ? You are encouraging people to give you work.

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  • Fundamental attribution error: observers tend to over-attribute the behaviors of others to their personality and under-attribute them to the situation or context.

  • Confirmation bias: Favoring information that conforms to existing beliefs and discounting evidence that does not.

  • Hostile attribution bias: tendency to interpret others' behaviors as having hostile intent, even when the behavior is ambiguous or benign

  • Halo effect: Overall impression of a person influencing how you feel and think about their character.

  • Self-serving bias: Blaming external forces when bad things happen and giving oneself credit when good things happen.

  • Negativity bias: even when positive or neutral things of equal intensity occur, things of a more negative nature, even when they are benign, have a greater effect on one's psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things.

Conclusion: Know your biases, know yourself

They are many biases, OK … now what ?

It's important to be aware they exist to help you to identify situations:

Situation: Someone ask me for help. You are busy, but you want to be kind and people are happy when I help them.

Issue: if you accept helping them, you might face frustration, you may fail, others will be unhappy. They might keep coming and asking for help again and again.
Solution: try to say no, people will ask someone else. If they insist, you can check if you can help.
Why ? Don't lose time in helping a few people, especially if they are always the same one. They are somehow leeches, eek!
Biases involved: Hero Complex

Situation: You dislike someone. He asks you something. You don't want to do it.

Issue: are you sure you won't accept what is asked or said if it was someone else who was asking.
Solution: Accept you dislike/hate someone. Then consider what he really asked for.
Why ? The need might be legitimate.
Biases involved: Hostile attribution, Fundamental attribution error

Situation: Someone and you disagree about something.

Issue: you will spend time on finding a solution.
Solution: Stop arguing, It's OK to disagree.
Why: It's not your role to find an agreement. Stop losing time. A third person might help, either by agreeing with one of two solutions (if it's you, you are lucky, if not, deal with it and move one), or another solution could be raised by the third person, and both people arguing will concede they are OK with it.
Biases involved: False consensus effect, Functional fixedness

Situation: Old code is bad, unmaintained, but no one wants to touch it.

Issue: You forgot that everything that was worst had already been replaced/refactored.
Solution: it's ok to consider to change things
Why: stay curious !
Biases involved: Survivorship

Situation: You are working too much, you feel bad at work.

Issue: ⚠️⚠️ DANGER ZONE ⚠️⚠️ It could lead you to burn-out if you don't pay attention
Solution: Step backs, think about yourself, and current situation
Biases involved: Hero Complex, Negativity bias, Self-serving bias, Halo effect, Fundamental attribution error

That's all folks!

Oh! One more thing, not really related to cognitive biases.
You don't have to be loved by other, love yourself first.

love yourself

Think about the plane instructions, put a mask on your face before trying to help any other, especially the one you love.

plane instruction


Hey, you know what ? This article was written with my own biases, and my perception of the world. And you may face your own Confirmation biases when reading my article 🤣

This article was written by a Human. No AI were involved or hurt by writing this article.

Top comments (1)

michaeltharrington profile image
Michael Tharrington

This is really interesting stuff, Christophe. Appreciate ya sharing!