50 Cognitive Biases Every UX Designer Must Know

Discover the psychology behind user behavior and learn how cognitive biases shape the way users behave

Welcome, fellow UX designers! Today, we embark on an exciting journey into the depths of human cognition.

As creators of delightful user experiences, it's vital for us to understand the quirks and biases that shape human decision-making.

Cognitive biases, those sneaky mental shortcuts, can influence how users perceive and interact with our digital products.

So, fasten your seatbelts as we dive into the fascinating world of 50 cognitive biases and uncover their impact on user behavior!

What's the Buzz about Cognitive Biases?

Cognitive Biases

Imagine your mind as a labyrinth of intricate pathways, constantly navigating information to make quick decisions.

That's where cognitive biases come into play.

These biases are like shortcuts your brain takes to process complex information and simplify decision-making.

But, be warned, they can also lead to irrational choices and skewed perceptions.

As UX designers, understanding these biases allows us to create interfaces that work harmoniously with users' cognitive tendencies, resulting in seamless and engaging experiences.

Cognitive biases video explainer:

Let's Explore the 50 Cognitive Biases:

Cognitive Biases

1. The Fundamental Attribution Error:

Cognitive Biases

We’re quick to judge others based on personality but lenient when evaluating ourselves, attributing behavior to external factors.

2. Self-Serving Bias:

Cognitive Biases

Success is all thanks to our abilities, while failures are just temporary setbacks caused by external circumstances.

3. In-Group Favoritism:

Cognitive Biases

We tend to show favoritism towards people in our own group, often favoring them over outsiders.

4. Bandwagon Effect:

Cognitive Biases

Ideas and beliefs gain momentum as more people adopt them, spreading like wildfire.

5. Groupthink:

Cognitive Biases

The desire for conformity can sometimes lead to irrational decisions as we prioritize harmony over critical thinking.

6. The Halo Effect:

Cognitive Biases

A positive trait in one area spills over, casting a glow over a person’s other qualities (and even works for negative traits too!).

7. Moral Luck:

Cognitive Biases

Our judgment of moral standing is influenced by the outcome, whether positive or negative.

8. False Consensus:

Cognitive Biases

We often believe that more people agree with us than is actually the case, leading to biased perspectives.

9. Curse of Knowledge:

Cognitive Biases

Once we acquire knowledge, we assume everyone else knows it too, forgetting to provide essential information.

10. Spotlight Effect:

Cognitive Biases

Ever felt like all eyes are on you? That’s the spotlight effect, where we overestimate how much others notice our behavior or appearance.

11. Availability Heuristic:

Cognitive Biases

Our decisions are influenced by examples that come to mind easily, leading to biased judgments.

12. Defensive Attribution:

Cognitive Biases

We tend to blame the victim less if we can relate to their situation, secretly fearing we could be vulnerable too.

13. Just-World Hypothesis:

Cognitive Biases

Believing in a just world, we sometimes assume that acts of injustice are deserved, which may cloud our judgment.

14. Naïve Realism:

Cognitive Biases

We trust our own perception of reality as objective, often assuming others are irrational or biased.

15. Naïve Cynicism:

Cognitive Biases

We overestimate the egocentric bias in others’ intentions and actions, thinking they are more self-serving than they actually are.

16. Forer Effect (aka Barnum Effect):

Cognitive Biases

Vague statements easily make us feel like they’re tailor-made for us, even if they apply to many others too.

17. Dunning-Kruger Effect:

Cognitive Biases

The less we know, the more confident we are, and the more we learn, the more we realize there’s still so much to learn.

18. Anchoring:

Cognitive Biases

Our decisions are heavily influenced by the first piece of information we encounter, often shaping our subsequent choices.

19. Automation Bias:

Cognitive Biases

We sometimes place excessive trust in automated systems, even when they make mistakes.

20. Google Effect (aka Digital Amnesia):

Cognitive Biases

With search engines at our fingertips, we tend to forget information that’s easily accessible online.

21. Reactance:

Cognitive Biases

When our freedom feels threatened, we rebel by doing the opposite of what we’re told, just to assert our independence.

22. Confirmation Bias:

Cognitive Biases

We actively seek out and remember information that confirms our existing beliefs, ignoring contradictory evidence.

23. Backfire Effect:

Cognitive Biases

Ironically, presenting evidence that disproves our beliefs can sometimes strengthen our initial convictions.

24. Third-Person Effect:

Cognitive Biases

We believe others are more influenced by mass media than we are, underestimating our own susceptibility.

25. Belief Bias:

Cognitive Biases

We judge an argument’s strength based on how plausible the conclusion seems to us, rather than the evidence supporting it.

26. Availability Cascade:

Cognitive Biases

Repetition of collective beliefs makes them appear more plausible and accepted in society.

27. Declinism:

Cognitive Biases

We tend to idealize the past while perceiving the future negatively, often believing that societies are in decline.

28. Status Quo Bias:

Cognitive Biases

Change can be unsettling, so we often prefer things to stay the same, considering any deviation as a loss.

29. Sunk Cost Fallacy:

Cognitive Biases

We’re reluctant to let go of investments or decisions, even when they’re not in our best interest, simply because we’ve already invested in them.

30. Gambler’s Fallacy:

Cognitive Biases

We mistakenly believe that past events influence future probabilities, even when they’re unrelated.

31. Zero-Risk Bias:

Cognitive Biases

We’re inclined to eliminate even the tiniest risks entirely, disregarding other options that might reduce overall risk more effectively.

32. Framing Effect:

Cognitive Biases

How information is presented greatly impacts our decisions, as we can draw different conclusions from the same information depending on its framing.

33. Stereotyping:

Cognitive Biases

Without specific information about individuals, we adopt generalized beliefs about a group’s characteristics, leading to biases.

34. Outgroup Homogeneity Bias:

Cognitive Biases

We perceive members of our own group as more diverse while viewing out-group members as more similar to each other.

35. Authority Bias:

Cognitive Biases

We tend to trust and be influenced by the opinions of authority figures, often giving their words significant weight.

36. Placebo Effect:

Cognitive Biases

Believing a treatment will work can sometimes produce a small physiological effect, showcasing the power of our minds.

37. Survivorship Bias:

Cognitive Biases

We focus on the successes while overlooking the failures within a process, leading to skewed perceptions.

38. Tachypsychia:

Cognitive Biases

Time can feel distorted under certain circumstances, such as trauma, drug use, or intense physical exertion.

39. Law of Triviality (aka “Bike-Shedding”):

Cognitive Biases

We give excessive attention to trivial issues, often avoiding more complex ones.

40. Zeigarnik Effect:

Cognitive Biases

Incomplete tasks tend to stick in our minds more than completed ones, creating mental tension until they’re finished.

41. IKEA Effect:

Cognitive Biases

When we participate in creating something, we attach greater value to it, appreciating our own contribution.

42. Ben Franklin Effect:

Cognitive Biases

Doing favors for others can create a sense of liking and increase the likelihood of doing more favors for them.

43. Bystander Effect:

Cognitive Biases

The presence of others can diminish our willingness to help a victim, assuming someone else will step in.

44. Suggestibility:

Cognitive Biases

Especially in children, suggestions can be mistaken for memories, blurring the lines between reality and imagination.

45. False Memory:

Cognitive Biases

Our minds can sometimes construct memories that never occurred, making us believe in events that didn’t happen.

46. Cryptomnesia:

Cognitive Biases

Real memories can be mistaken for products of our imagination, leading to confusion about the origins of our thoughts.

47. Clustering Illusion:

Cognitive bias

We tend to find patterns and clusters even in random data, sometimes seeing connections that don’t actually exist.

48. Pessimism Bias:

Cognitive Biases

We often overestimate the likelihood of negative outcomes, perceiving them as more probable than they actually are.

49. Optimism Bias:

Cognitive Biases

Conversely, we can be overly optimistic about positive outcomes, underestimating potential risks and challenges.

50. Blind Spot Bias:

Cognitive Biases

We’re often oblivious to our own biases, readily spotting them in others while remaining unaware of our own tendencies.

Congratulations on completing this whirlwind tour of 50 cognitive biases!

By understanding these quirks of the human mind, you're equipped with invaluable insights to create exceptional user experiences.

As UX designers, we have the power to anticipate and design around these biases, fostering positive interactions and influencing user behavior in meaningful ways.

So, harness this knowledge, embrace empathy, and let's craft experiences that delight, engage, and navigate the fascinating landscape of human cognition.

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Are you in design portfolio pain?

Introducing the Folio Pharmacy! Portfolio templates and done for your portfolio service coming soon to ease the pain of updating your folio

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