Every day, we make hundreds of little decisions, from whether or not to get up when our alarms ring to what to think about when we're lying in bed at night. So, it's unfortunate that decision-making mistakes are literally built into our brains. Humans have evolved to rely on certain thought patterns that just don't always serve us today.
"It’s generally very difficult to know we’re making mistakes when we contemplate decisions," Vijay Ram, PhD, a clarity coach and a visiting research scientist at the University of California, tells Bustle. "We don’t get graded on our work like we did as kids and get to see our mistakes and learn the 'right' way to do something."
From a cognitive science perspective, most decision-making errors boil down to logical fallacies (over-generalizations, comparing apples and oranges, circular thinking), limiting beliefs (underestimations of what's possible), and judgment biases (valuing certain factors above others), Ram explains. "Judgment biases can creep into our thinking even when we are trying to be objective. They unintentionally cause us to weigh information differently because of unconscious attachments to the data, reasoning, or outcome. The general strategy for avoiding these is to learn about them and factor them into our thinking when making important decisions."
Toward that end, here are some of the most common mistakes people make when they're thinking through decisions.