Visual study guide to cognitive biases

"Cognitive Biases - A Visual Study Guide by the Royal Society of Account Planning" is a short slide-show aimed at helping you remember all the major types of cognitive bias. This might just be my favorite subject at present: it's so fascinating to remind myself that my brain doesn't know what it's doing most of the time, and to study that systematically and try to apply the lessons learned therefrom.

Visual Study Guide to Cognitive Biases (via Josh Schachter)


  1. It seems you can’t download or print unless you sign into a facebook or scribd account.

  2. They seem to bias their leaflet/poster/??/presentation towards people with 6000dpi monitors, 30/20 vision and the tendency to forgive bad layout if the publishing blog claims royal approval.

    1. … were you damaged by faux wood paneling as a child or something? I’m not seeing anything here that requires high dpi or excellent vision. 800px wide slideshow with some crap on the right? ohnos you have a scrollbar at the bottom of your screen that you don’t need to use to read the slideshow?

  3. Does anyone have a .pdf link that I can download without login in to Facebook?

    1. #6 (and anyone else that happens to want a PDF): Send an email to echo tango bravo oscar golf golf sierra at that gmail service dot com with “cognitive bias PDF” or somesuch and I will send you a PDF. :) (BTW, that’s the NATO phonetic alphabet, so echo = ‘e’, etc.) (I ended up getting said PDF by logging in with Facebook, so I traded a little bit of privacy for this information, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. But my FB profile has almost no information on it anyway, so I didn’t trade much!)

  4. Do I win prize for ploughing through that to the bitter end and discovering that there are two definitions of the disposition effect?

  5. Really seems like they should teach this stuff to high school kids, or maybe even middle school kids. Cognitive Biases 101

    1. I was thinking the same thing.

      It is a bit frightening to me how many different agents are exploiting these biases in our daily lives, and how many different political reactions are due to these biases.

      Of course, that frightened feeling is probably due to some bias or other…

  6. might have been interesting if i could have seen it for other things on the page constantly overlapping the bottom corner.

  7. Are all 100-some of these biases really documented? This kind of seems like pseudoscience.

  8. you should probably point out that the “enlarge” button is at the bottom of the screen. I just found it after much scrolling.

  9. apparently they fell victim to the “duplication effect” whereby an effect (e.g. the “disposition effect”) is listed twice, to give them 36 probability/belief biases instead of 35.

  10. Oh man, I really hope that site isn’t “the future of reading” as it claims. So much javascript it brings my poor netbook to a screaming halt, not one but TWO opportunities to share on facebook/twitter/whatever (one of them a pop-up!), always-on bottom toolbar, youtube-style retarded comments and other semi-related items sections, an extra box of random usernames who have also read it recently, and after all that the damn thing doesn’t even work. I had to scour the page for the Flash button.

    That’s right, a simple series of static images was actually presented BETTER in Flash than in (ostensibly) HTML.

    Once I got there, pretty nice list though.

  11. I remember reading a SF story by Ursula K. Le Guin, in which liberalism is declared to be a psychiatric disorder and treated with electric shocks and lobotomy. In this document, it’s the opposite, in a way — conservatism is called the “system justification effect / status quo bias” (fortunately, there is no appeal for drastic measures to address this problem).
    Seriously, I wonder if there aren’t some good (evolutionary?) reasons for this irrational attachment to “existing social, economic, and political arrangements”, which the authors of these slides are discounting out of hand.

    1. I think what the bias is referring to is people who hold onto tradition past its usefulness. It doesn’t make sense for us to cook using the same recipes from the 1790s, or to keep cobblestones on streets that have now become busy thoroughfares. There are self-evident reasons why you shouldn’t sacrifice a system that works for an untested one, but no system should be perpetuated for the sake of tradition once it is clear that the system doesn’t work.

  12. Hahahaha! Great comment!.This is Eric Fernandez, the one who prepared this doc. I’m happy to make any changes to this based on your comments, and I’ll post a direct link to the PDF shortly. I’ll even send you guys the original keynote file so you all can tweak it as you see fit. For those of you that hate the wood paneling, you can take it away :D Enjoy!

  13. The “Egocentric Bias” is listed under both the 42 decision-making biases and under the 19 social biases.

    If they end up fixing it, it’s definitely because of this comment I’m making.

    On a separate note, this would really have benefited from a brief description of each category. How are social biases different from decision-making biases, etc.

  14. Hello Anonymous!

    If I made that change it would be because of you! :D

    But, I think we should leave it, because even though they are really similar, one talks about how the egocentric bias affects your memory and the other is more about a social context.

    You can take it out if you want. I’ll be posting a link to the Keynote and Powerpoint file momentarily.

  15. Hahahahaha. :D

    If you go here:

    You will now find links to download the PDF and the original Keynote. It’s just a study guide, so feel free to alter it, improve it, and reuse it anyway you’d like!

    Note: I had to pack the Keynote in a .Zip file because keynote files have a hard time uploading on their own, and I honestly tried hard to export to Powerpoint but formating got all messy.

  16. You know Jack, I actually have a presentation half started on that. I think you might have just inspired it’s completion. :D Feel free to send me layout ideas. Or, if you want to collaborate that would be cool too!
    – Eric

    1. It’s hard to do that with an Anon reply, but message me jackdavinci at… and well talk…

  17. The descriptions are short and a little hard to understand. I’d be interested in reading about each bias in more detail.

  18. Hey MadRat,
    Each Bias name in the study guide links directly to the Wiki page on the bias. :D
    – Eric

    1. “Each Bias name in the study guide links directly to the Wiki page on the bias. :D”

      Thanks, Ultan and anonymous Eric!

  19. As one of the authors of this presentation, I strongly recommend that people do NOT rely on it. It’s merely the current Wikipedia article – which is pretty poor – turned into a slide show with some images. The article will be good some day, but its present form is so incomplete as to be misleading.

    Not all of the things mentioned are cognitive biases, not all the biases on the list arose from the heurisitics and biases research programme. The numbers are just arbitrary. There aren’t “42 decision-making biases”: there are just 42 things correctly or incorrectly in the Wikipedia list at a particular time.

    This is a fascinating topic, and you get an infinitely better introduction to it from a paperback book: Stuart Sutherland’s “Irrationality”, Cordelia Fine’s “A Mind of Its Own”, Scott Plous’ “The Psychology of Judgement and Decision Making”, Thomas Kida’s “Don’t Believe Everything You Think” and there are lots more that would serve the purpose.

    Again, I say this as one of the authors of the article, and I admit I haven’t done a good job with it so far.

  20. Hello Everyone,

    A big thank you for all the interest in this study guide. It was created as a fun introduction that took the Cognitive Bias wiki and tried to make it easier to memorize. I originally made it for personal use but thought it would be helpful to share.

    However, as the authors of the wiki article have expressed here, it seems the Cognitive Bias wiki still needs a lot of work. The document has being taken down for the time being until that can be corrected. Thank you all for your interest.

    My sincere apologies for any troubles this caused!

    Would love for a bunch of Professors in the field to chip in and make the Wiki spotless. There seems to be tremendous interest in this topic. If your an expert in cognitive science, pitch in to help save the wiki! :D


  21. Update. As I mentioned above, the authors of the wiki article have expressed some concern over the accuracy of certain entries. The document was taken down until that could be corrected. But, people started asking for a new version with a warning. In response, a new “Beta version” of the document has been uploaded with a very strong warning label up front and improved citations. It is now clear that all the text is based on an evolving wiki page and that some of the cognitive biases in there might be incorrect wiki entries. My hope is that this will continue to get people interested in pitching in to help fix the Cognitive Bias wiki pages. :D When the wiki is in a good place, I will take the document out of Beta, and will remove the warning label.

    If you are a cognitive expert, join “Operation Fix The Cognitive Bias Wiki!” Add your suggestion to the conversation here:

    Thanks for your interest! :D


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