Betting on red
On August 18, 1913, somewhere in the night of Monte Carlo, a casino roulette wheel landed on black for the 10th time in a row. The gamblers, frantically convinced the next spin would be red, began to bet heavily.
More and more people joined the crowd. Surely a red would be next? By the time it finally showed, after 26 black spins, the crowd had lost a colossal fortune.
All because of a cognitive bias.
How can we make better decisions?
We make thousands of decisions every day. Some of them are difficult, some of them are so easy we don’t even notice we are making them.
How can we know if we are making good decisions? How can we avoid falling into traps, and betting on red?
Cognitive psychology attempts to answer these questions by uncovering the unconscious biases that underlie so many of our behaviours.
What are cognitive biases?
To date, researchers have identified around 200 cognitive biases, and you will already be familiar with many of them.
When you see a heavily discounted price, and are more likely to make a purchase. This is ‘anchoring bias’.
When you are more critical of the behaviour of rival football supporters than your own team’s. This is ‘in-group bias’.
And when you are more likely to believe a news report which supports an opinion you already held. This is ‘confirmation bias’.
After taking this pathway, you will be able to identify the most significant cognitive biases that affect our lives, and how to avoid them.
You will also have learnt about the amazing psychology experiments that revealed these biases, and the brilliant psychologists behind them.
Lastly, you will have explored the evolutionary explanations behind cognitive biases, and be engaged in the debate around why they might not always be a bad thing.