Sample English Essay Paper on Cognitive Biases

Cognitive Biases


Cognitive biases affect the quality of decision making and outcomes. Reports have linked many disasters and accidents to cognitive biases, where people have made errors and mistake in judgment. For instance, in 1996, eight mountain climbers lost their lives on Mount Everest when they were caught by a snowstorm at the top. Survivors recounted how the accident occurred. It emerged that three cognitive biases were responsible for the tragedy. First, the urged to climb to the top prompted them to continue with expedition despite straining on resources that would have facilitated descend during storms. Second, two climbers may have been overconfident with their climbing skills jeopardizing the safety of others. Third, they were encouraged by their previous expedition not knowing that during such times the weather conditions were good. Unfortunately, overconfidence portrayed by the team leaders led to the death of other team members. There are many cognitive biases that consistently affect decision making. The paper analyses confirmation bias highlighting on its influence in thinking and how it can be prevented.

Confirmation bias

It is the tendency to interpret information in a way that it confirms preconceptions of a person and resulting to statistical errors. Experts delineate that it represents an error made during inductive inference to confirm a hypothesis of a situation or study (Ariely, 2008). Confirmation bias prompts decision makers to assign more weight to evidence that supports hypothesis rather that analyzing the underlying evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis. Confirmation bias affects thinking as evident in the accident that involved Iran Air Flight 655. The aircraft was shot down by air missiles from USS Vincennes believing it was an F-14 fighter from Iranian Air Force. The entire passengers onboard died. Investigators exposed that the commanding officer was faced a situation characterized with complicated, confusing, and contradictory information which was to be interpreted and reconciled within minutes (Ariely, 2008). Confirmation bias led to the tragedy when the officer did not bother to confirm the aircraft was a fighter jet or a commercial aircraft. This type of bias negatively influences decision making of individuals when they try to construe information, including contradictory evidence to confirm formerly held beliefs. Confirmation bias occurs when available evidence is unclear or incomplete and important decisions must be made under condition of uncertainty. The damaging effects of confirmation bias have prompted intelligence community to design tools and formulate techniques to assist in avoiding them.

There are several ways of preventing occurrence of confirmation bias during decision making and thinking. First, it is important for a person to take all information in and not jump into conclusions. Decision makers should engage in fact finding expeditions and resist the immediate temptations to generate possible hypotheses. Second, there is need to engage in brainstorming sessions to identify potential causes and unclear data that may jeopardize decision making. Third, individuals should highlight potential causes that generate hypotheses about a given situation, then present and compare with those of another person, to see if they match. After that, circle back and investigate the data further to identify fluctuations and consider additional information to confirm or disconfirm explanations.


Cognitive biases are numerous. They have led to tragedies as they influence decision making. Notably, confirmation bias prompts decision makers to rush into concluding based on unconfirmed information. However, it can be avoided through engaging in fact finding, brainstorming and comparing individual assertion with others to either confirm or disconfirm a hypothesis surrounding a particular situation.


Ariely, D. (2008). Predictably irrational: The hidden forces that shape our decisions. New York:

            Harper Collins.