Understanding Our Biases

Bremer Acosta
14 min readMar 2, 2022
Calvin and Hobbes

“We see things not as they are but as we are.”

— Anais Nin

“The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe.”

―Voltaire

“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

— Isaac Newton

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We like to think that we are rational. Yet we are often unaware of our cognitive biases. Cognitive biases are systematic errors in the way we think about information. They are distorted patterns in our sensations, perceptions, and interpretations, influencing our beliefs, values, judgments, and decisions.

These biases occur as a result of our biological limitations. Our brains can only take in a fraction of information out of the total amount of possible information in the universe. We wouldn’t be able to function if we had to process every millisecond of every detail in our environments. So our brains simplify what we perceive to be more efficient organs, but as a consequence of this neural simplification, we unconsciously make errors.

Our nervous systems make sense of the signals in our environments. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to survive. We select some information as relevant while rejecting other information. But what we perceive and recall, what we integrate into our nervous systems, is never equal to all of reality.

We continuously make internal models of what we experience, mostly below the level of our conscious awareness. As we engage with our environments, our environments are represented inside of us. Our nervous systems are constantly changing with the conditions of the universe.

Our existence is intertwined with the cosmos. We are interdependent with other organisms on our planet. The chemical elements that we are made up of once came from the stars. Without the sea and air, without the sun and moon, without the flora and fauna, we would not exist.

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