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How can we help our students learn to avoid Cognitive Biases?

We must teach our students more than just how to think. Our students must also learn how not to think.

The human brain is a complex paradox. We think we are supposed to use it for thinking. However, as Daniel T. Willingham said, “Contrary to popular belief, the brain is not designed for thinking. It’s designed to save you from having to think, because the brain is actually not very good at thinking.” While attempting to avoid thinking as much as possible, our brain relies on mental shortcuts, attention, motivations, emotions, and social pressures to respond to our experiences and surroundings. As a result, we end up developing Cognitive Biases.

We must consider this peculiar quality of our brains as we teach. It avoids thinking; yet tightly controls our cognitive, affective, and physical reactions and responses and clouds our ability to make decisions. Cognitive Biases mislead our best intentions. Usually, we spend a lot of time in the classroom teaching children how to think. We seldom think of teaching them how not to think. When we looked at research on Cognitive Biases, we learned that though it is impossible to remove them, given the design of our brains, we can teach people how to sidestep them. In this context, we curated a list of Cognitive Biases to show you how you can teach your students to avoid them.

How to use this online guide on Cognitive Biases?

Most of the Cognitive Biases we mention here are automatic subconscious states. We are born with some of them. We socialise ourselves into acquiring others. Knowing what they are and how they impact our decisions can help us sidestep many of these Cognitive Biases. Innerkern's research team has made a lot of effort to explain each Cognitive Bias in simple language. When you click on a link below, it will take you to a specific Cognitive Bias where we explain what that bias is and how it influences our decisions. We hope the first two questions about each Cognitive Bias will help you talk about them explicitly to your students. When you plan your lessons, look for opportunities to discuss these Cognitive Biases with your students. These discussions will eventually help your students notice when these biases take over or prepare to sidestep them.

Innerkern's research team reviewed 100s of research papers on Cognitive Biases to identify strategies that will help us deal with specific Cognitive Biases. We have briefly mentioned them under each Cognitive Bias. We highly recommend that you integrate these strategies into your routine teaching. If you are open minded about seeking our help to implement how-not-to-think classrooms in your school, please feel free to reach out to our programme team here. Innerkern can collaborate with your teachers to design and run highly sophisticated how-not-to-think classrooms without making them sit through boring workshops and presentations.

Click on any of the following links to learn more about each Cognitive Bias. At any point, if you want to discuss any of the Cognitive Biases in detail, do not hesitate to write to us here.

  1. Action Bias

  2. Affect Heuristic

  3. Ambiguity Effect

  4. Anchoring Bias

  5. Attentional Bias

  6. Availability Heuristic