The Role of Cognitive Biases in Decision-Making According to Behavioural Economics

Behavioural economics is a field that combines psychology and economics to understand how people make decisions. It challenges the traditional economic assumption that individuals are rational and always make decisions that maximize their own self-interest. Instead, behavioural economics recognizes that humans are prone to cognitive biases, which can significantly impact their decision-making process.

The Influence of Cognitive Biases

Cognitive biases are mental shortcuts or patterns of thinking that can lead to errors in judgment and decision-making. These biases are often unconscious and can affect our perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors.

They are a result of our brain's attempt to simplify complex information and make quick decisions. One of the most well-known cognitive biases is the confirmation bias, which is the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs and ignore evidence that contradicts them. This bias can lead us to make decisions based on incomplete or inaccurate information, as we only consider evidence that supports our preconceived notions. Another common cognitive bias is the availability heuristic, which is the tendency to overestimate the likelihood of events based on how easily we can recall them from memory. For example, if we hear about a plane crash on the news, we may become more fearful of flying, even though statistically, it is still one of the safest modes of transportation.

The Role of Cognitive Biases in Decision-Making

In traditional economics, decision-making is seen as a rational process where individuals weigh all available information and make choices that maximize their utility. However, behavioural economics recognizes that our decisions are often influenced by cognitive biases, which can lead us to make choices that are not in our best interest. For example, the anchoring bias is the tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information we receive when making a decision.

This can lead to us making decisions based on irrelevant or arbitrary information, rather than considering all available options. The loss aversion bias is another common cognitive bias that can impact decision-making. It is the tendency to place more weight on avoiding losses than gaining equivalent gains. This can lead us to make irrational decisions, such as holding onto a losing investment for too long or avoiding necessary risks.

The Impact of Cognitive Biases on Economic Decisions

Cognitive biases can have a significant impact on economic decisions, both at an individual and societal level. For individuals, these biases can lead to poor financial choices, such as overspending, taking on too much debt, or making risky investments.

They can also affect our career choices, as we may be influenced by biases such as the halo effect, where we judge someone's overall character based on one positive trait. At a societal level, cognitive biases can have a profound impact on economic policies and regulations. For example, the status quo bias, which is the tendency to prefer things to stay the same, can lead to resistance towards change and innovation. This can hinder economic growth and development.

The Role of Behavioural Economics in Addressing Cognitive Biases

Behavioural economics offers insights into how cognitive biases influence decision-making and provides strategies to mitigate their effects. By understanding these biases, individuals can become more aware of their thought processes and make more rational decisions. One approach used in behavioural economics is nudging, which involves designing choices in a way that encourages individuals to make decisions that are in their best interest.

For example, automatically enrolling employees in a retirement savings plan can overcome the present bias, where individuals prioritize immediate gratification over long-term goals.


Cognitive biases play a significant role in decision-making, and their impact can be seen in various economic contexts. By understanding these biases and their effects, we can make more informed and rational decisions. Behavioural economics offers valuable insights and strategies to address these biases and improve our decision-making processes.