Behavioral Biases Affecting Leadership


  1. Ambiguity Effect – Tendency to select options for which the probability of a favorable outcome is known over options for which similar probabilities for a favorable outcome is unknown.
  2. Amygdala Hijack – Stressors that challenge what we believe to be true about ourselves, others, or the world around us and generate automatic emotional and physiologic reactions.
  3. Analysis Paralysis – Decision resistance in the face of adversity, either consciously or unconsciously, in spite of competence to make a correct decision or select a proper choice. Fear of making a mistake restrains appropriate actions.
  4. Anchoring Effect (Relativity Trap) – Whenever we try to estimate or are in search of a numerical value for an item, we’re unconsciously influenced by related figures we’ve just seen, read, or heard about.
  5. Authenticity – Quality of being genuine and worthy for others to believe. Resistance to disguise and hide one’s true personality to insure that false judgement, labeling, or adverse reactions are avoided.
  6. Availability Cascade (Illusory Truth Effect/ Reaffirming Effect) – Brings unproven credibility to ideas or insights through their unceasing repetition and rationalization in a simplistic manner for purposes of convincing and gaining rapid audience acceptance.
  7. Avoidance CulturePractice of dismissing poor behavior of others, and accepting this behavior as “that’s just the way they are”
  8. Barnum Effect (Forer Effect) – Belief that statements about ourselves are true if they are flattering and ignored/rejected if they are not.
  9. Belief Bias (Biology of Belief) An individual’s values, beliefs, and world view are the measures affecting and distorting reason and truth when evaluating arguments or data.
  10. Beneffectance Effect – Causes us to consistently exaggerate self-importance, believe we have more impact on the opinions of folks, and brag that we’re the focus of everyone’s remarks.
  11. Blind Spot Bias – Illogical thinking where we recognize the impact of biases on the decisions of others, but fail to see the impact of biases on our own conclusions.
  12. Boxed In – Enables the harsh inner critic inside our brain to filter everything entering it with unbalanced beliefs, values, filters, world views, and biases. Staying boxed in provides a socially acceptable place to hide our insecurities and limits our growth and opportunity to build new skills.
  13. Breakdowns versus Problems Explaining problems defines an attitude when we add drama to what is expected is blocked like whining, complaining, criticism, and grumbling. Explaining breakdowns eliminates drama from the conversation and focuses on intended outcomes by only dealing with causes of what is blocked and implementing appropriate solutions.
  14. Buttons We Don’t Push Places We Don’t Go – Times in daily interactions such as meetings, phone conversations, emails, and texts when we are unaware of behavioral actions enforcing our continual need to be right while proving other’s wrong.
  15. Change Blindness – An unconscious visual experience of omission occurring when we view a scene or real life situation and significant changes (additions or deletions) occur in our sight that we don’t recognize or appreciate.
  16. Choice Supportive Bias – While reflecting on past choices the propensity to embellish memories with exaggerations and positive happenings that may never have occurred, or are selected out of context, to reinforce an ongoing position or identity.
  17. Clustering Illusion – Erroneous tendency to consider clusters of data arising in small samples taken from random distributions to be statistically significant.
  18. Confirmation Bias /Myside Bias – Process of seeking evidence and information supporting, confirming, and reinforcing closely held beliefs and attitudes.
  19. Confabulation Bias/False Memory Syndrome – Bias occurring during excitement or stress when we fabricate, distort, and misinterpret memories about ourselves or others without a conscious intention to deceive.
  20. Conjunction Fallacy – The occasion where two events overlap (conjunction) is not a more likely occurrence than the likelihood of either of the two individual events occurring by themselves. Ignoring this principle we have the tendency to ascribe a higher likelihood of erroneously associating quantity of events with quantity of probability.
  21. Contrast Effect Bias/Cookie Cutter Thinking – One size fits all is a frequent strategy used in trying to win an argument, or make a sale, as with personal, retail, or pharmaceutical products. Inexperienced leaders often deal with new circumstances by leveraging cookie cutter thinking as the measure to implement solutions to complex or heterogeneous needs.
  22. Current Moment Bias/Instant Gratification Bias – An unconscious behavioral driver to gratify needs, wants, and urges from basic eating and drinking to more complex cravings. Often seen shadowing a robust desire for material possessions such as new cell phones, expensive cars, and elaborate homes and furnishings. When desires are not met anxiety and frustration follows.
  23. Curse of Knowledge – Excessive dependence on pre-existing knowledge and experience is the basis for steering well-informed folks to find it very difficult to recognize learning barriers often experienced by less-informed and less-skilled folks.
  24. Distinction Bias – Choices presented within a grouping are evaluated differently than when the same choices are presented individually.
  25. Empathy Gap – An unconscious behavioral block of perceiving and acknowledging another’s emotional state leaving one unable to relate.
  26. Endowment Effect – Behavior that places a greater value on material things (goods, services, & pets) merely because one owns them.
  27. Ethical Licensing – Behavior that rationalizes performing “good” acts validates doing “something “bad,” often without even realizing it. The reason lies in unrestrained selfishness where for “being good” we justify deserving a rewarding permit.
  28. Exaggeration Bias – Behavior that explicitly overly describes a suitcase full of challenges, hopes, dreams, and successes through metaphors, hyperboles, personifications, synecdoches, and similes… figures of speech that we all too often bring to life to excite, convince, and please.
  29. Extreme Aversion Bias – Tendency to dislike losing more than liking winning… losses loom larger than gains even though the value in monetary terms may be identical.
  30. Fallacy of Fairness – Behavior that distorts our view of impartiality compelling us to obsessively compare all is even and fair, even though partiality and partisanship exist.
  31. False Consensus Bias – Tendency to overestimate the extent to which personal opinions, beliefs, preferences, values, and habits are normal and typical of those of others (i.e., others think and act the same way that we do).
  32. Fear of Failure – Behavior that delays actions and causes one to quit trying unless guarantees and assurances exist that success or perfection in pursuit of our goal will be achieved. The catalyst for sabotaging motivation and accomplishments by faking illnesses or creating obstacles and excuses to protect one’s self-esteem.
  33. Feeling Free – Measure of performance in balancing reward versus punishment. Feeling Free is the optimum behavioral outcome when reward offers a prize for performing with skill while punishment threatens a loss of the feeling for an untoward action or dela
  34. Flying Without Wings – Behavioral feeling achieved when, while trusting in something, or someone, we feel supported, encouraged, and not alone.
  35. Follow Through – Behavior completing when one’s word is given to folks or when one’s word is interpreted to be an expectation that will happen, and what is so… follow through to completion is a measure of one’s integrity.
  36. Forgiveness – Behavior that obviates playing the blame game or saying I will forgive but not forget with the underlying message of a lingering un-forgiveness. Unconditional forgiveness is consistent with being whole and in integrity while recognizing there is no healing in labeling or judging in perpetuity.
  37. Framing Effect – Tendency to place positive or neutral perceptual boundaries around thoughts to avoid or minimize risks.
  38. Functional Fixedness Bias – Behavior that entrenches one into getting stuck in “one way thinking” so as to create an inability to transfer personal skills and limit adaptability to new situations and circumstances
  39. Fundamental Attribution Error – Describes the tendency to overestimate the effect of disposition or personality and underestimate the effect of the situation in explaining social behavior.
  40. Gambler’s Fallacy – Mistaken belief that, if something happens more frequently than normal during a specified period, then it will happen less frequently in the future. Similarly if something happens less frequently than normal during a specific period, it will happen more frequently in the future.
  41. Good Enough – A behavior that supports mediocrity with a commonly used comfort phrase used as a self-esteem crutch. In any activity we are involved in when a point is passed from a personal evaluation of fair to “midlin” and approaches a good point regarding our personal satisfaction we unconsciously have a tendency to keep ourselves in the safety zone of “good” and not move forward.
  42. Good News Bad News – More than three-fourth’s of “receiving” folks want bad news first. So a good news finish trumps the worst. Hearing good news “last” guides us from sad to glad while hearing damaging news “last” motivates us to alter what’s unsettling and bad.
  43. Gut Feelings – Our gut holds more neurons than our spinal cord. So both head and gut… have their own brains on board.  Both absolutely receive impulses, record experiences and respond to emotions. As with Siamese twins… each brain affects the other’s notions.  Our gut brain has its own nerve network. Learning, remembering, and producing “gut feelings” influences our decisions with surety of a booking clerk.
  44. Halo Effect – A behavior where we allow one characteristic in another to outshine others and bias our overall perception without feeling danger. With the halo effect we commonly associate “folks in shape” with intelligence, leadership, character, and trust. Our perception of “attractiveness” greatly influences the extent to which we see the halo effect as being right and just.
  45. Harsh Inner Critic Syndrome – “Severe second guessing behavior” to the level of serving as a self-motivational killer especially when allowed to run rampant in our mind beating us up with mental self-whippings. These floggings are part of a harsh inner voice that rules with toxic negativity by bombarding us with images of pessimistic self-clippings.
  46. Hindsight Bias/I Knew It All Along Bias – Tendency to change our position from what we once said and firmly believed in to something different (often polar opposite view) saying we knew it all along after new facts and information we heard, saw, or read has occurred.
  47. Illusory Superiority – Behavior where individuals regard themselves considerably more positively and less negatively than others actually perceive them.
  48. Illusion of Control/Big Cheese Syndrome – Behavior where believing personal skill controls randomness is known as Big Cheese Syndrome or Illusion of Control. While feeling like a big cheese “encourages” taking on responsibility, the more we think we’re “in control” and don’t respect the laws of randomness, the more our performance takes a toll.
  49. Impact Bias – Tendency to overly rely on our previous performance and experience in work, play, performance, and managing health and self-improvement as a predestined future indicator that’ll last.
  50. Integrity Wholeness – Behavior that embraces our word as being whole and complete. It frames whatever we say we’ll do… about whatever we know to do, or not do… about what is expected… about what we say is so… and about what we stand for from abstract to concrete. When we are out of Integrity we can recapture it by recognizing and acknowledging that fact to folks who expected our word to be kept while simultaneously being committed to cleaning up any mess that being out of integrity may have caused.
  51. Jumping to Conclusions – Behavior that describes decisions that are made without having full details or understanding of a situation. Our ability to distinguish between what we observe and what we assume all too often fails.  Jumping to conclusions comes in many forms… Mind reading – Where we believe we know folk’s intentions, thoughts, and norms; Fortune telling – Where we trust unconfirmed expectations for how things will occur; and Labeling – Where we rashly compare, overgeneralize, and thoughtlessly infer.
  52. Jumping on the Bandwagon – Behavior describing when the popularity surrounding a winner, favorite, or issue affects our individuality to the point where our independence starts shutting down and embracing a “groupthink,” “follow the leader,” or “copycat” mentality. From large crowds to small groups, like family or co-workers we’re susceptible to Bandwagon Effect behavior robbing us of our individuality.
  53. Just Saying – Behavior driving folks to commonly declare “I’m just saying after making a controversial comment so that they take no responsibility for the insensitivity… It’s a convenient phrase that serves as a disguise for folks to speak without reservation and then negate any ill intent with total pass
  54. Kind of Hush – Behavior in a stressful situation where we quiet our minds, quiet the moment, and quiet the event so reflection on being present when present diminishes deadly confrontations and keeps emotions of all present in check. A kind of hush behavior rejects amygdala hijacking aggressiveness, we know as our fright, fight, flight response and brings calm comes to those on deck.
  55. Life Sentence – Potentially life long negative self-judgment behavior arising from paralyzing mental trials where we allow perceptions of low periods in our life to hand down sentences of enduring doubt, fear, and limitations in work, relationships, and play.
  56. Managing Expectations – Behavior that accents clarity. Managing a clear understanding of, and agreement to, what expectations each participant involved in relationships, projects, associations, and interactions holds is critical in reaching an outcome all parties’ expect and desire. Clarity and agreement are followed by commitment to meet or exceed the agreed terms of achieving expectations for which all aspire.
  57. Managing Time – Behavior that recognizes integrity and two-timing are not the same. Setting and keeping up with designated timelines requires hard work without blame.  One timeless treasure sits above any measure. Losing track of time and promising life away with a “Someday” behavior is a poor time-piece price to pay.
  58. Negativity Bias – Tendency to pay more attention to bad news than good and it’s not just because we’re depressed or misguided. Given choices, our brain perceives negative things as more significant than positive events. We repeatedly grant greater credibility to bad news because we’re suspicious of assertions that good news presents.
  59. Obedience to Authority – Behavior dedicated to following directions and completing a task when assigned or asked. Because obedience involves an imbalance of power and status between order giver and receiver prudent care to avoid coercion is a wise thing to do.
  60. Occurring for Us – Behavior that embraces a perception of what is… is and what we believe is happening in the world is happening and the way we show up for ourselves in that world is the way we are.
  61. Peak–End Rule – Behavior that embraces the expression “I’m only as good as my last show” whether that performance is good or bad. Overall performance or steady improvement has little import
  62. Peer Pressure Effect – Behavior that dictates actions we have to participate in even though our judgement says “we shouldn’t do it. It’s not in our best interest.” Peer pressure is based on our intense need to be liked, accepted, and heard. If we refuse to group think and misguidedly “follow the leader” we unconsciously believe our chances of being accepted are tarnished and blurred.
  63. Picture Superiority Effect – Influencing tendency where pictures and images are more likely to be remembered than any words folks may be weaving.
  64. Polarized Thinking – The hallmark of polarized thinking is an insistence that in any circumstance only two choices can be found. Polarized thinkers perceive everything at the extremes, with little room for a middle ground.  While many may see the color gray… for polarizes gray is a tint that generates remarks of “no possible way.”
  65. Power of Thank You – As an amazing no-cost return on investment, thanked folks are more than TWICE as likely to give their future support to others. Expressing gratitude elevates our mood and well-being, strengthens our social relationships, and relieves stress. Saying thank you values others for what they’ve done and encourages their future help in any mess.
  66. Power of Suggestion – Deliberate suggestions significantly influence how we perform on learning and memory tasks, which products we prefer, our view of the world, and how we respond to self-improvements, supplements, and medicines, which accounts for the well-known placebo effect.
  67. Pratfall Effect/Blemishing Effect – Tendency for our attractiveness and earned respect, to be either increased or decreased after we make a mistake. When we have “above average” competence coupling “messing up” with contrition makes us more “human.” Alternatively, when others view us with “perceived perfection” behavioral boundaries of invincibility and non-approach-ability are created.
  68. Present When Present – Behavior that demands over and above physical presence to be totally in the moment while not allowing distractions to interfere with attention and focus.
  69. Pride – As a virtue, it signals belonging and gratitude. As an emotion, it leads the seven deadly sins Christian monks identified in the 3rd century along with lust, gluttony, laziness, anger, envy, and
  70. Probability Bias/Neglecting Probability – Behavior driving a mindset where we don’t properly grasp a sense of peril and risk around us. We regularly falter deciding when the right time to truly watch our back and protect ourselves and those around us.
  71. Projection Bias – Behavior driving us to overestimate how mainstream and normal our thinking is and actions are, with the assumption, that consensus exists from others on matters we’re considering… when in fact similarities are distant and outlying.
  72. Respond Versus React – Behaviors that appear the same but significantly differ. Reactions and responses both begin with external stimuli however responses are more thoughtful, reflective, and primarily based on reason. Responding is guided less by emotion and more by logic. The upside of a solid response is that we seek to engage in conversation while creating a hushful rather than a hostile moment. Emotion is replaced with learning and growing… outcomes that are much more potent.
  73. Reverse Psychology – A deceptively “reframing” behavior in ways that motivate other’s efforts to do the opposite of what’s said to achieve compliance. As a strategy, it’s manipulative and confusing to individuals being targeted in every circumstance. Actions that mirror the reverse of how he or she is supposed to behave are promoted while undermining authority and driving respect deep into a dark behavioral cave in the process.
  74. Rosy Retrospection Effect – Behavior where individuals rate past events more positively than they had actually rated them when the event occurred. The effect is embedded in the Latin phrase memoria praeteritorum bonorum meaning “Memory of the good pasts”.
  75. Scarcity and Tunnel Vision ­– Tendency for our minds to be grossly narrowed when we feel we lack money, time, skill, support, direction, or even companionship. A scarcity mindset consumes our brain’s “mental bandwidth” leaving most life choices ignored or skipped. Scarcity tunnel vision disables us whenever our obsession is consuming. This attention intensity significantly affects and threatens our safety, health, relationships, performance, and daily activities by intentionally limiting choices to the harm of everything else.
  76. Shoe Drop Anticipation Syndrome – Behavior that literally suppresses growing a personal, social, business, or play relationship by erecting tight avoidance boundaries. These limiting boundaries block our ability to fully enjoy life due to frequent anxiety,  sadness, distrust, and vulnerability emotions driven by expectations that inevitable disappointments will come in our associations with others who unknowingly will drop the proverbial other shoe.”
  77. Status Quo Bias – Tendency to make choices guaranteeing things remain constant, comfy, and familiar. Status-quo bias is framed in the common phrase, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” — an adage that paves our comfort zone more than we admit. In fact, status-quo bias is a building block in helping explain reasons fail… such as the enactment of effective universal health care plans  or why patients are non-compliant in taking medications allowing their own rationalizes to prevail.
  78. Trust – Belief in the reliability, truth, ability, integrity, and strength of something or someone in all that is done for us or done to us. A value, from business meetings to friendships and intimate relationships we keep adjusting.
  79. Van Restorff Effect/Isolation Effect – predicts that when we have a bunch of similar things to think of, the items that differ from the rest are more likely to be remembered for us to see. So when an item “stands out like a sore thumb” or “stands out in a crowd” it’s more likely to be remembered. The Von Restorff effect is a bias in favor of remembering the distinct. By highlighting important parts of your notes you’re isolating items so your memory is marked with indelible ink.

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