Cognitive Biases

Top Cognitive Biases That Impact Design

Cognitive Dissonance The information in front of you doesn’t match your previous expectations. The mental stress associated with performing inconsistent actions or holding multiple contradictory beliefs simultaneously.

Confirmation Bias (backfire effect) The tendency to search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.

Halo Effect (Specific type of Confirmation Bias) If you generally like a brand, you’ll be primed to like everything about it. If you dislike the brand, you’ll be primed to think more negatively about every aspect you see.

Framing Effect People react to a particular choice in different ways depending on how it is presented; e.g. as a loss or as a gain.

Dunning-Kruger Effect Unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than it really is.


Anthropomorphism Humans tend to ascribe human-like traits and intentions to non-human entities (e.g. animals, objects, abstract concepts).

Negativity Bias Humans have greater recall of unpleasant memories compared to positive ones.

Loss Aversion Losses loom larger than gains in our minds, all things being equal.

Reciprocity People who receive an unsolicited gift, however small, are more likely to feel indebted to the giver.

Peak-End Effect People tend to place higher weight on how they felt during the peak and the end of an experience when recalling it from memory.

Goal Gradient Effect Most people are willing to put more effort into achieving a goal the closer they perceive they are to it.

Social Proof People assume the actions of others when they are unable or unwilling to determine the appropriate mode of behavior, driven by the assumption that others possess more knowledge of the situation.

Action-Oriented Bias Humans are optimistic beings. We tend to believe that the things we do will work out for us, and therefore we have a bias toward action. This means that we sometimes make changes that don’t need to be made and create complications where none are needed.

Self-Interest Bias Also known as the “status-quo bias,” self-interest bias is when we have a tendency to like and expect things to stay the same. Deep down, we prefer the world to match our perception of how we think things work.

Pattern-Recognition Bias As humans, we love patterns. Patterns are comfortable. They make us feel like there is sense and order in the world. As a result, we have a tendency to imagine patterns where none actually exist.

Social Harmony Bias Humans hate conflict in their own lives. Our tendency is to stick with the herd, go with the flow, and generally stay out of other people’s way. We’d love it if we could rise to the top of the pack, but very few of us are willing to ruffle feathers in order to get there.

Stability Bias Most of us work nine-to-five jobs, because we are uncomfortable with the prospect of working for ourselves and not knowing where our next paycheck is coming from.

Narrative Bias Refers to people’s tendency to interpret information as being part of a larger story or pattern, regardless of whether the facts actually support the full narrative.

False Consensus Effect Refers to people’s tendency to assume that others share their beliefs and will behave similarly in a given context. Only people who are very different from them would make different choices.


Created by: Joe Steinkamp | Last updated by: Joe Steinkamp