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Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Most frequent errors, fallacies, and biases when decision-making

Looking for something that might tell me how often logical fallacies and cognitive biases occur in discussions, I could find nothing at all.  Not willing to let go, I resorted to using N-grams.  It has the drawback that some fallacies and biases are terms commonly used in other contexts (ex: false memory) or returned no results (ex: normalcy bias).  I lost about hundred biases and fallacies from this weakness, though generally more obscure or nuanced biases and fallacies.  This was about half the population.  Of the remaining hundred or so, I was able to obtain an N-gram number and then rank from largest to smallest.

All this tells us is the degree to which specific biases, errors and fallacies are being discussed in books.  I am making the bold inference that specific biases and fallacies which are discussed frequently are correspondingly more common or more problematic (i.e. perhaps they don’t occur that often but are more consequential when they do).  So having caveated the corpus to death, I present the top most commonly discussed biases and fallacies in a whispering ghost of a list.

These would seem to be the errors, fallacies, and biases you are most likely to encounter when working with a group to reach an empirical, logical, and evidence based decision.

Anecdotal Evidence
False assumptions
Cognitive Dissonance
Fallacy of composition
Unstated Assumptions
Slippery Slope
Selective perception
Halo effect
Argumentum Ad hominem
Illusory correlation
Source Credibility
Forer effect (aka Barnum effect)
Sunk cost bias
Begging the Question
Fundamental attribution error
Generalizing personalities
Hindsight bias

Not quite the list or order I would have expected, but not completely out of the realm of probability.  The top ten in particular are broadly consistent with my experience in terms of mistakes teams make when trying to arrive at decisions.

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