What's a brain bias?

Cognitive biases interrupt our ability to make rational decisions in our personal and financial lives.

We come into this world with a hidden repertoire of biases that seduce us into acting irrationally in a variety of common situations. By producing fast decisions and strong actions, these behaviors were adaptive, enabled us to survive in a hunter-gatherer environment. Most biases operate outside conscious awareness. The short articles that follow are mainly about identifying them. That's the hard part. But once a bias has been identified, correcting it is straightforward and mechanical. Each one becomes a point of inquiry. Cognitive biases are also called "effects," "errors," "fallacies," "glitches," and "illusions."

The biases are energy efficient: There's only so much information that can be analyzed by our brains before a cognitive load maximum is reached, and in the lead-up to that load, our critical-thinking faculties get sloppier. That's when mental short-cuts, like the brain biases, are useful. The history of "Cognitive Load Theory" can be traced back to the beginning of Cognitive Science and the work of G.A. Miller (1956). He was one of the first to suggest our working memory capacity was limited.