Understanding human cognitive biases – The Unlearning Playground Podcast episodes

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

anais nin

Our perceptions colour the world we see.
Our perceptions, in that sense, also limit the world we see. 

To put forward a simplistic model of an otherwise endless topic, there are three broad levels at which our cognitive biases and logical fallacies work. 

Our mood

Our moment-by-moment state of being conditions how we see the world. The same episode of Friends which otherwise would have you in a laugh riot, might not even warrant a smile if you’re not in the ‘mood’ for it.

Our biology

Years of evolution have conditioned us to behave in certain patterns. The same gesture might be interpreted as a sexual advance by a hormone-ridden 21 year old or just a friendly wave by a 52-year old. 

Our conditioning

This is the story in our heads of the world around us. Our past experiences, our education, the content we consume, etc. – all of these together condition the stories in our minds, which then condition our “new” experiences.

Understanding human cognitive biases and logical fallacies with Chetan Narang, The Unlearning Playground podcast

Becoming aware of our own cognitive biases and logical fallacies
is a central part of our growth as human beings.

You can always point fingers at others, and at your past selves.
But it is only when your currently held opinions come under the scanner,
that real understanding begins to dawn on you.

The following is a collection, or rather a playlist of episodes of The Unlearning Playground Podcast, where I have tried to collate and explain numerous different biases, delusions and fallacies that we human beings tend to function under. I find this to be the bedrock of most of the unlearnings that I tend to talk about a lot throughout my work.

As usual, the individual episodes are themselves quite short – I tend to try to keep them down to only around 10-20 minutes long so as to enable easier absorption and reflection on part of the listener.

Dive into the playlist now!

SOME important questions about cognitive biases and logical fallacies

What is cognitive bias in simple terms?

In layman terms, a cognitive bias is a limitation of our minds because of which we fail to process something as it is without colouring it with our own pre-conceived ideas and conclusions. It stops us from seeing things as they are, and makes us see things as we are.

What are some examples of cognitive biases?

There are numerous cognitive biases we human beings tend to function under. Some common examples include confirmation bias, framing effect, authority bias, etc. They usually function behind the scenes and are easier to see in others than in our own thinking.

What is a logical fallacy?

In simple terms, a logical fallacy is a statement that appears to be convincing and true, but is not really based on sound logic and is therefore invalid and false. Most fallacies tend to be a result of improper reasoning, deliberate or otherwise.

How do you overcome cognitive biases?

Cultivating awareness of your own thoughts is step number one. If you are aware of your thoughts, of your moment-to-moment state of being, you can catch your biases and fallacies before you act them out.

Why should I try to be more aware of my biases?

Being aware of one’s own biases makes one more equipped in improving one’s own decision making capabilities, in being able to point out to others where their decisions could be better, and in being able to see how we human beings are all more same than different. We could all really use more of that.