We’re all faced with cognitive bias – but we don’t have to be bound by it

  • BLOG POST
  • 04/07/2019

Whatever the industry or task, from motor liability judgements to tax assessments, it’s the quality of the decisions we make that effectively dictates the quality of a business. Yet the magnitude of this widely shared cognitive bias codex demonstrates the sheer amount of obstacles we have to overcome daily to be able to make consistent decisions.

Below is a list of the causes of cognitive bias and their effect on everyday decision-making:

1. There’s too much information – and we don’t have enough memory
Sometimes the cup over runneth with information, and we’re left without enough RAM in our brains to process our decision-making properly. Computers were supposed to take the burden off our memories, but they’ve arguably filled them with a surplus of information. Yet AI can do what computers promised: free up space in our minds for creativity by automating basic tasks and decisions.

2. We don’t have all the time and information we need.
For a historical example, let’s hark back to the ‘60s for a quote from J.C.R. Licklider’s paper Man-Computer Symbiosis: “About 85% of my ‘thinking’ time was spent getting into a position to think, to make a decision, to learn something I needed to know. Much more time went into finding or obtaining information than into digesting it … Several hours of calculating were required to get the data into a comparable form. When they were in comparable form, it took only a few seconds to determine what I needed to know.”

3. There’s not enough context
There are times when you lack the contextual information you need to make the right call. This can lead to patchy guesswork, lost revenue opportunity, or just a plain “I don’t know”. Who’d want to be a customer on the other end of that line? If only there were a repository of relevant information on hand…

4. We’re stressed!
We’ve all been there: work pressure can be such that stress starts to impair people’s abilities to make good decisions. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, too: the more decisions that people have to make, the more likely they are to succumb to what neuroscientists have termed ‘decision fatigue’. The more help we can get from technology for the micro-decisions, the better for our brains (and souls).

5. Circumstantial and environmental factors.
A Harvard study found that a person’s decision-making on the exact same situation can drastically change from day to day – as much as 60% – due to environmental and circumstantial ‘noise’, as described by the study.

For every decision, there’s a tangle of obstructions to navigate. But we’re here to tell you that AI-powered automation can help reduce cognitive bias, by introducing unprecedented consistency to decision-making. By scaling a company’s best-practice methodology, decision-making can be standardised, avoiding the bias that often goes into varying interpretations from different tax assessors, for example. Less time can also be spent on the nitty-gritty, like triaging seekers of legal advice. With less time allocated to time-intensive manual tasks and decisions, your team has more time to focus on what they do best with clear heads.

But with AI-powered automation comes great responsibility. The potential for bias if unsupervised machine-learning is utilised can open up great risks for businesses and their customers. In the following Artificial Intelligence for Business report, published in The Sunday Times and available for free download, Rainbird CEO, Ben Taylor, discusses the importance of utilising subject matter expertise into AI technology in order to reduce bias.

Download your free copy of AI for Business report.