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How Cognitive Bias is shaping our post Covid-19 World

Written by Marion Aufseesser

3 June 2020

Dear Reader,

Thank you for joining me once again.

Over the last 15 days we created and rolled out some 50 interactive webinars in English and French, with several hundred participants on

“How to bounce back serenely from Covid-19” https://www.transitionkit.com/interactive-webinar-how-to-bounce-back-serenely-from-covid-19/

In today’s article, I share one aspect of the webinar which appears paramount to me which is the cognitive bias based on Daniel Kahneman work (with Tversky) which earned Kahneman a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (Shared with Vernon L. Smith in 2002) on the psychology of judgement and decision making and behavioural economics.

Based on Kahneman’s as well as on Olivier Sibony’s (HEC Paris) work, I am inclined to describe what we are experiencing as a BC and AC time period (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/going-from-bc-19-ac-19-new-era-marion-aufseesser-stein) and therefore I am talking about the “AC era” rather than a “new normal”. 

Why and how is Cognitive Bias influencing our world?

According to Wikipedia’s definition:

cognitive bias is a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment. Individuals create their own “subjective reality” from their perception of the input. An individual’s construction of reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behavior in the world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.

We are totally subjective when under emergency stress. Saving lives is the prime objective.

We tend to take irrational, system 1 and not system 2, rational decisions as described by Kahneman in his book.

What are system 1 and system 2?

According to Kahneman definitions:

System 1: is fast, automatic frequent, emotional, stereotypic, unconscious.

System 2: is slow, effortful, infrequent, logical, calculating, conscious.

In essence, thinking fast and slow makes most of us realize how strongly we are influencedby our former assumptions and patterns and how little we really analyze new albeit uncomfortable data.

Our behaviour is much more influenced by the environment of the moment than we know or want.

Given the information gathered, that most of us make up our minds from, we easily understand how strongly we are influenced and how little we take the time to find reliable sources. (If we find sources we believe we can trust, which in the case of Covid-19 is a major problem given that we should be able to trust for example WHO, but given the politics can we trust WHO? What about Bill Gates? To trust or not to trust – that is the question!  Many of us don’t know whom to trust (anymore?).

Studies show that people tend to trust the scientific community more than the politicians. Then again there are varying scientific communities with very different approaches. In addition to this, studies show that certain populations will trust celebrities more than politicians and the scientific community.

In summary: I am drawing our attention to the fact, that what you think is your personal analysis and judgement (system 1) needs to be seriously challenged by yourself and become a concerted (system 2) reflection. Then and only then, will you be making your own personal judgement.

My LinkedIn articles are voluntarily short teasers and non-exhaustive. On a subject as complex as our thought process I invite you to read original Kahneman articles. I also invite you to follow Olivier Sibony (HEC, Paris) in English and French

Wishing you all a great week and take care of each other,

Marion

(Thanking Cyrille Gay, my business partner for being the best sparring partner, editor and visual designer you can wish for)