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This is a fascinating and I think fun topic and I am hoping others will weigh in with their own experience, particularly as seen or experienced in engineering practice. I first became aware of this topic in the early 1990 when first exposed to the concept of decision quality (a future topic) and in particular the disabling role of anchoring.
As a brief background, the notion of cognitive biases was first identified by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in work published in the early 1970s. The role cognitive biases play in everyday life has now become far ranging from Behavioral Economics to baseball's Sabermetrics. They are also also making their into engineering, e.g., February's free paper: Value of Information on Resilience Decision-Making in Repeated Disaster Environments.Examples of cognitive biases - also referred to as heuristics - include:
Finally, if you read and liked Michael Lewis' book Moneyball I highly recommend his follow up book the Undoing Project. The provides the why behind former. There's also a nice article from the New Yorker The Two Friends Who Changed How We Think About How We Think that serves as a great intro to the overall subject of cognitive biases.
There are some fascinating discussions on this important topic (thanks to Mitchell Winkler for initiating it). As we understand it, cognitive bias is a person's subjective reality that results from his or her own pattern of thinking that may not be in sync with the characteristics of the object, or of a problem. It is a systematic pattern of deviation from the rationality of judgment. In the context of societal relationship one can say that, cognitive bias represents the observer's state of mind – his or her mind-set or conviction – which has nothing to do with observed.
Let us attempt to see the issue cognitive bias from a different perspective – in terms of solving a problem – engineering or otherwise. For such cases, and individual invariably starts with searching for tools in his or her toolbox, which may contain at least three:
Whatever tools an engineer chooses, his or her commonsense judgment is always required – but not steeped with cognitive bias rather with seeing and comprehending the problem or project as is.
Often, we become so much involved in something that we forget to see a problem in simple terms. I remember, one of the giants in coastal engineering, RG Dean (1931 – 2015) asked a simple question to a presenting author during a conference session. The author's presentation was highly elaborate in formulae and mathematics – and he was so consumed by them that a simple physics based question appeared very difficult for him to answer.
------------------------------Dr. Dilip Barua, Ph.D, P.Eng, M. ASCEVancouver, BC, Canadahttps://widecanvas.weebly.com------------------------------
e.g., Some call it cognitive bias, others defense mechanisms.
And then there are both positive and negative applications of each.
Appreciation to Mitch and others for surfacing such mission-critical socio-psychological internal mental operations that are within each of us. However, "Shooting from the hip" at them will not deliver the value they offer to our people and their work.
The value of such knowledge, once we are educated and understand what such insights mean and do not mean, the better will be our collective abilities to engineer our future, today. This again is just one more subject not presented to engineers who are tasked with making decisions as well as evaluating the decisions of others.