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Hannah’s blog

A psychologist wannabe with the moves like Jagger - It's all in the mind!

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My favourite biases! This is why Psychology is cool (Part 1)

So this is another one for those psychologists out there. This includes a couple of the REALLY COOL (yes I am a psych geek!) things that you will learn on the course here at Cardiff. If you’re not looking to study psych, then I encourage you to still read on, as it makes for interesting facts to pull out at the cocktail parties!

If you study psychology at Cardiff, when you get to final year you can choose from a selection of topics that particularly interest you. One of those on offer is Decision Making. The types of questions that are asked here are things like: How do people make decisions? How can we best optimise those decisions? And are people making mistakes when making those decisions, without even realising? …in terms of the answer to that last question, you can probably guess from the way I phrased that , that it is indeed correct. As humans we fall prey to a whole host of biases when we make decisions, and without even knowing we’re doing so!

So…i’m going to take you through some of the biases that I find particularly interesting, and hey! maybe being aware of these biases may even help you when you’re making important decisions (such as what course to study/which uni to choose).

IKEA Effect – this is when we put far more value on objects that we have created ourselves, than objects that have been created by another. For example, why is it that you really like that bookshelf that you bought from IKEA (which you had to assemble yourself), more so than the table you quite like which you found in the shop down the road? It’s because you had to put effort into making the bookshelf, which in turn means you take more ownership and pride in the product. Hence why it’s called the IKEA effect – its part of the reason why we all love IKEA (that and their meatballs!). To give another example: We all love the homemade taste of our cakes right? Compare that to shop bought ones. Running out to the shops isn’t quite the same, as putting in the effort ourselves – even if it is a bit burnt, or a little wonky – we’re still proud! Why do you think there are so many food photos on Facebook of people’s dinners?

Cheerleader effect – people are rated as more attractive when they stand in a group than if you were to look at them individually. This is why a group of cheerleaders are perceived to be insanely attractive – crazy huh?

Ostrich effect – I like this one because of the name I think! Put simply, it’s ignoring an obvious negative outcome. Kind of like how an ostrich buries it’s head in the sand. Obviously this is quite an important one, for example not opening a bill from the electricity company, or maybe even avoiding reading/listening to the news.

Barnum effect (Forer effect) – Barnum statements are statements that seem very relevant, personal and individually tailored to you and your individual personality, when in actual fact can be attributed to  the vast majority of the population. An example of a Barnum statement would be: ‘At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved.’

Planning fallacy – This is one of my favourite biases on this list, simply because this is so me! (maybe that in itself is a Barnum effect!). The planning fallacy occurs when you underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete a task. For example, you may think writing an essay may take two days…but you find yourself up all hours of the night because ‘this is taking so much longer than I thought!!!’ Interestingly, this bias only occurs when we are thinking about ourselves. The reverse happens when we think about someone else: we overestimate the time it will take someone else to complete a task. So why do we fall prey to the planning fallacy? Maybe because we focus on the most optimum scenario, it could be wishful or maybe even a case of the self-serving bias (we remember events that went well as the product of our effort and skill, and events that didn’t go well as the product of outside influences – other people were late, it was raining, the oven was too hot, etc.)

Found this interesting? There will be more biases to follow! It’s just i’m in the middle of revision period and I really need to get back to revising. Exams start in 4 days….

…that’s not very long….


Wish me luck! I’ll write again once they’re done.

For now though, I hope that fuelled your interest in psychology as it did with me :) Speak soon


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