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Three Common Thinking Traps, and How to Avoid Them 

Bias affects everyone’s thinking. While it isn’t always a disaster, it can cause serious problems, including misunderstandings and conflict between Loved Ones. In this NPR interview, Yale Professor Woo-kyoung Ahn discusses three of the most common sorts of bias, and how we can train ourselves to counteract them. 

After listening to Elise Hu’s conversation with Dr. Woo-kyoung Ahn, it’s tempting to conclude that bias is “hard-wired” into the human brain. But I have a feeling the professor might prefer the metaphor of glitches in our mental operating system: deeply embedded, but still responsive to updates and fixes—if only we can recognize the bug and learn how to respond. 

This interview explores three kinds of bias. There’s negativity bias (or loss aversion), in which we fear a negative consequence more than we value or appreciate the equivalent positive situation. There’s fluency bias, in which we observe something done with apparent ease and believe that we, too, will be able to do it as well. And there’s confirmation bias, common and very problematic, in which we tend to seek out, notice, and interpret evidence that supports what we already believe (or want to believe). 

It doesn’t take much effort to imagine how any of these can make it harder to communicate with or support a Loved One. And while we can’t get rid of these biases, the good news is that relatively simple changes in thinking habits can make us alert to them, and better able to dodge their snares.  

Woo-kyoung Ahn introduces each kind of bias, as well as the basic approach to getting a handle on it. Very much worth a listen!


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