Cognitive biases are convenient intellectual shortcuts that allow us to streamline our decision making processes (heuristics) and have evolved to help humans process information quickly when under pressure.
Imagine working on a jigsaw puzzle of an image where there is a prize for guessing what the image is as soon as possible and therefore before all the pieces are in place. Cognitive biases allow a human to create a subjective reality based on incomplete information. This gives us a competitive edge but can lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgement, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.
Cognitive bias in aviation
There are many types of cognitive bias that can affect the safety of flight, including:
- Confirmation bias
- Continuation bias
- Hindsight and Outcome bias
- ATC expectation bias
- Flight crew expectation bias
- Framing bias
- Ambiguity effect
Countermeasures to mitigate cognitive bias
The first defence against any hazard is to recognise that it exists. Awareness of how these biases can affect decision making should be included in basic and refresher training.
One of the most effective and proven strategies to combat perceptual error is crew resource management (CRM).