Hardwired for delusion: How our brains deceive us

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Image credit: Michaelangelo Yambao

[Present bias] is the tendency people have, when considering a trade-off between two future moments, to more heavily weight the one closer to the present. A great many academic studies have shown this bias—also known as hyperbolic discounting—to be robust and persistent.

Present bias shows up not just in experiments, of course, but in the real world. Especially in the United States, people egregiously undersave for retirement—even when they make enough money to not spend their whole paycheck on expenses.

[This] is an example of cognitive bias—the collection of faulty ways of thinking that is apparently hardwired into the human brain.

The gambler’s fallacy makes us absolutely certain that, if a coin has landed heads up five times in a row, it’s more likely to land tails up the sixth time. In fact, the odds are still 50-50. Optimism bias leads us to consistently underestimate the costs and the duration of basically every project we undertake. Availability bias makes us think that, say, traveling by plane is more dangerous than traveling by car.

Related article:  Sleeping helps us find ‘out of the box’ solutions to difficult problems

[W]hile present bias has so far proved intractable, employers have been able to nudge employees into contributing to retirement plans by making saving the default option; you have to actively take steps in order to not participate. That is, laziness or inertia can be more powerful than bias.

Read full, original post: The Cognitive Biases Tricking Your Brain

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