A categorised list of cognitive biases from the wikipedias list

The cognitive bias codex is a brilliant resource to dig into the biases that shape the way we see the world. These biases can stand in-between us and the world, and filter the options we perceive in every moment. I recommend looking over the codex and spending a day on wikipedia researching each of the effects. Today I thought I’d throw out some provocations that might unlock strategies to increase our influence and effectiveness when communicating IA.

Constructing your argument
Given that we discard specifics to form generalities – how might you architect your message to reduce the number of individual decisions you ask someone to agree with? What are the most important primary categories or classes of thing that your stakeholders need to be able to identify and understand? Where is the risk in oversimplification?

Making memorable messages
Given that our memories are liable to a host of weaknesses – how might you construct your recommendations so that the major points stick? How might you vary the way you communicate to construct different types of experiences (and memories)? How might you exploit peak-end rule to make make your message memorable?

Occam had a point (not two)
Most people favour simple looking options and complete information over complex ambiguous options. I think that’s the goal of IA. But sometimes IAs fetishise the complexity of the problem and spend energy communicating that, rather than the simplicity of the solution. Where is the investment of energy in your communications?

Engineering commitment
If we tend to avoid irreversible decisions, how do we encourage the long-term investment and commitment that IA often requires? Could we incrementally exploit investments of time and energy to create longer term commitments?

Don’t disregard dissonance
If we project our current understanding of the world into the future, how will you convince people of the need or existence of a fundamental shift in the status quo? Liking something or someone helps us imagine a greater range of possibilities for them – can we exploit rapport and preference to aid divergent thinking? How can we exploit stereotypes, generalities or prior histories to establish or build credibility and influence?

We more easily notice things that we’ve been primed to see. How might spending more time considering cognitive bias help you recognise obstacles or opportunities in the future.

This is a handful of the questions that occurred to me today as I worked around the circle. I think you can use this process as a creative prompt the next time you need to shape a presentation or a set of recommendations? Like oblique strategies or IA inspiration cards the list of biases provides ready made questions to consider how could you build on existing biases and behaviours to make your message more effective?

References and resources:

Wikipedia list of cognitive biases – this list is the basis of the codex and comes with handy short descriptions for each bias.

Buster Benson’s Medium article collects the biases into easier to remember and understand categories.

You can buy the codex print from Design Hacks.