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Cognitive Bias Codex

Cognitive Bias Codex. What Should We Remember? Part 2.

Table of Contents

We discard specifics to form generalizations

Let’s continue our conversation about the Cognitive Bias Codex, and now I will tell you more about how our brain “improvises” and replaces clear memories by asserting only their common meaning as the only true meaning, and what problems come out of this.

Fading affective bias

The fading affect bias, more commonly known as FAB, is a psychological phenomenon in which memories associated with negative emotions tend to be forgotten more quickly than those associated with positive emotions. It is important to note that FAB only refers to the feelings one has associated with the memories and not the content of the memories themselves. Early research studied FAB retrospectively, or through personal reflection, which brought about some criticism because retrospective analysis can be affected by subjective retrospective biases. However, new research using non-retrospective recall studies have found evidence for FAB, and the phenomenon has become largely accepted.

Negativity Bias

The negativity bias, also known as the negativity effect, is the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than neutral or positive things. In other words, something very positive will generally have less of an impact on a person’s behavior and cognition than something equally emotional but negative. The negativity bias has been investigated within many different domains, including the formation of impressions and general evaluations; attention, learning, and memory; and decision-making and risk considerations.


Prejudice can be an affective feeling towards a person based on their perceived group membership. The word is often used to refer to a preconceived (usually unfavourable) evaluation or classification of another person based on that person’s perceived political affiliation, sex, gender, beliefs, values, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, race, ethnicity, language, nationality, complexion, beauty, height, occupation, wealth, education, criminality, sport-team affiliation, music tastes or other personal characteristics.

The word “prejudice” can also refer to unfounded or pigeonholed beliefs and it may apply to “any unreasonable attitude that is unusually resistant to rational influence”. Gordon Allport defined prejudice as a “feeling, favorable or unfavorable, toward a person or thing, prior to, or not based on, actual experience”. Auestad (2015) defines prejudice as characterized by “symbolic transfer”, transfer of a value-laden meaning content onto a socially-formed category and then on to individuals who are taken to belong to that category, resistance to change, and overgeneralization.

Stereotypical bias

Stereotypical bias is the phenomenon of memory distortion with respect to unfounded beliefs about certain groups based on race, gender, etc. This cognitive bias can manifest itself in misremembering ethnic-sounding names as names of criminals, or in assuming that all members of certain racial groups belong to an inferior social class. For example, a person with a stereotypical bias might mistakenly remember that a person is a terrorist just because his or her name sounds like a certain ethnicity.

Implicit stereotypes

In social identity theory, an implicit bias or implicit stereotype, is the pre-reflective attribution of particular qualities by an individual to a member of some social out group.

Implicit stereotypes are thought to be shaped by experience and based on learned associations between particular qualities and social categories, including race and/or gender. Individuals’ perceptions and behaviors can be influenced by the implicit stereotypes they hold, even if they are sometimes unaware they hold such stereotypes. Implicit bias is an aspect of implicit social cognition: the phenomenon that perceptions, attitudes, and stereotypes can operate prior to conscious intention or endorsement. The existence of implicit bias is supported by a variety of scientific articles in psychological literature. Implicit stereotype was first defined by psychologists Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald in 1995.

Implicit biases, however, are thought to be the product of associations learned through past experiences. Implicit biases can be activated by the environment and operate prior to a person’s intentional, conscious endorsement. For example, a person may unwittingly form a bias towards all Pitbulls as being dangerous animals. This bias may be associated with a single unpleasant experience in the past, but the source of association may be misidentified, or even unknown. In the example, this implicit bias may manifest itself as a person declining an invitation to touch someone’s Pitbull (dog) on the street, without this person understanding the reason behind the response. Implicit bias can persist even when an individual rejects the bias explicitly.

Implicit associations

In 1995, social psychology researchers Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji asserted that the idea of implicit and explicit memory can apply to social constructs as well. If memories that are not accessible to awareness can influence our actions, associations can also influence our attitudes and behavior. Thus, measures that tap into individual differences in associations of concepts should be developed. This would allow researchers to understand attitudes that cannot be measured through explicit self-report methods due to lack of awareness or social-desirability bias. In essence, the purpose of the IAT(implicit-association test) was to reliably assess individual differences in a manner producing large effect sizes. The first IAT article was published three years later in 1998.

Since its original publication date, the seminal IAT article has been cited over 4,000 times, making it one of the most influential psychological developments over the past couple of decades. Furthermore, several variations in IAT procedure have been introduced to address test limitations, while numerous applications of the IAT were also developed, including versions investigating bias against obesity, suicide risk, romantic attachment, attitudes regarding sexuality, and political preferences, among others. Finally, as is characteristic of any psychological instrumentation, discussion and debate of the IAT’s reliability and validity has continued since its introduction, particularly because these factors vary between different variations of the test.

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