Ten Cognitive Biases to Look Out For as a Developer

Frank Rosner on May 21, 2019

Introduction Cognitive biases can be viewed as bugs in our thinking when collecting, processing, and interpreting information. From an e... [Read Full]
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Excellence. Need more of this.

Self-reinforcing, single serving, agenda reassuring, information & bias bubbles are not good places to be. It goes well for a while & then falls apart real bad.

Always work on stuff you don't agree with with people you (assume you) don't like. There is very little growth in doing "yes" things around "yes" people. It distorts your world & perception.


Nice writeup!

It would be nice if we could collapse some of these biases, 10 tends to be too high a number of things to keep track of for most humans. Many of these biases, I feel, relate to humans' associative way of reasoning, as opposed to deductive/logical reasoning. Personally I try to express thoughts in BDI logic to check the correctness of a thought, though that is not always possible.


Totally agree! There are nice posters to remind you of logical fallacies, e.g.: yourlogicalfallacyis.com


I'm not a fan of calling logical fallacy. Many 'fallacies' are correct axioms for exploratory reasoning, or necessary shortcuts when dealing with the colossal complexity of the real world (as are emotions).

I've seen people abuse the term fallacy to just be a dick and flaunt their 'intellect' a bit too often, even erroneously.

This is so true! I am always trying to be positive and give feedback in a way that encourages improvement but it requires constant work and attention :)


Great article! Every team should look at this. I feel our industry has a productivity oriented way of thinking and promotes "shortcut" thinking a lot, thus often denying fair debates and group communication so we can be "faster" (and not propagating bad news or impressions, you can't raise investment with that).

I think the industry is actually promoting the biases you describe to spread, until we get another quality crisis in software and people start to get scared of just blindly copy/pasting stuff. The survival bias is strong here, always talking about great projects made with x tech and never talking about failed ones we never got to hear from.

We could end up just building the software of bias-masters (the impact of lobbying has increased to my mind, with big companies evangelization seen as god) instead of a team well thought software.

Having a great place to have free debates on software decisions is mandatory to succeed. If it is not there, the tech team has to create it. If you can't, well either you become a bias master too (there will be blood) or you change of... place.


Absolutely excellent post! I'm quite acutely aware of cognitive biases in myself and others, as a side effect of how I process information, but that doesn't make me immune to them. It's nice to get some additional concrete info on these "glitches".


Yeah totally agree! Writing this up was a lot of fun and also very insightful!


very nice write up.
If you don't know it already I suggest checking out "You are not so smart": a very interesting podcast about logical fallacies, biases and other social and psycological stuff.


On a developer level you might not be willing to replace your custom code by a newly discovered library that does the job in a better way because you spent a lot of time writing that code.

If that is really true, I might be an exception, because I love to throw away my own code, if it is no longer needed. If I find a library, that does something better, than my own code (not seldom), I happily use the library. Better performance and less code to maintain... I'd say, it is a "win - win" situation.


Yeah you are totally right!


Anonymous code reviews should be the default!


Confirmation bias is top of the list for me! Honestly I have to ask myself every time I'm debugging "how am I falling victim to confirmation bias here"?


If you haven't read it already, I recommend Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman--an illuminating book about cognitive biases (but note that the dual process theory is highly debated).


Hey Frank. Thanks for sharing.


Glad you liked it Jaime!


It's the finest social analysis I've seen in a long time. Well done, this will be very useful for me.


Im not biased, you are biased.
I don’t even know who you are.


I think I just found out that I am highly interested in these kind of topics, solely by reading this write-up.

Great read!

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