Rethinking Cognitive Biases as Environmental Consequences
Cognitive processes and their adaptive functions can hardly be understood if we look exclusively inside the mind, such as when we try to explain behavior with traits, attitudes, or preferences. Rather, it is essential to analyze the adaptive match between cognitive and ecological structures. This chapter shows that many phenomena that look like cognitive fallacies follow logically from a cognitive system well adapted to its environment. Specifically, the chapter presents an ecological analysis of judgment and choice in terms of the three moments of statistical distributions of information in environments. The chapter demonstrates that phenomena from various areas of psychology can be accounted for by people’s sensitivity to the three moments, and it also describes the implications of these moments in terms of the effect of regression toward the mean, the role of sample size, and the process of sampling.
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