What Is a Red Herring Fallacy? | Definition & Examples

A red herring fallacy is an attempt to redirect a conversation away from its original topic. A red herring is used by introducing an irrelevant piece of information that distracts the reader or listener. This can be intentional or unintentional.

As a result, one can divert others’ attention away from the original discussion topic or avoid answering a difficult question.

Red herring fallacy example
A police officer pulls a car over for speeding. The driver complains, saying that they shouldn’t pay a fine since there are so many dangerous criminals out there and the police should be chasing them instead.

Although worse criminals do exist, this is a separate issue. The real issue is that the driver exceeded the speed limit, and this is punishable.

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Hostile Attribution Bias | Definition & Examples

Hostile attribution bias is the tendency to interpret the ambiguous behavior of others as hostile. Under hostile attribution bias, people assume that others have negative intentions towards them and want to hurt them, even when others have no such intentions.

Example: Hostile attribution bias
You notice two people sitting across your table at a coffee shop, whispering and laughing. Because they occasionally look your way, you assume they must be laughing about you. However, that’s not the case—they simply look at you because you happen to be sitting right across them.

As a result, people who exhibit hostile attribution bias also tend to react aggressively, causing problems in their relationships with others.

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What Is Vividness Bias? | Definition & Examples

Vividness bias is the tendency to focus on certain attributes of a decision or situation while overlooking other elements that are equally or more important.

Vividness bias example
People often prioritize a prospective employer’s reputation, the prestige of a title, or a higher salary over other things that they may value more, such as work-from-home possibilities or a shorter commute to work. Prioritizing prestige over what we actually value most is a sign of vividness bias.

Vividness bias can lead to suboptimal decisions and influence our judgment in different contexts, such as job negotiations, responses to advertising, or choices about a course of study.

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What Is Normalcy Bias? | Definition & Example

Normalcy bias is the tendency to underestimate the likelihood or impact of a negative event. Normalcy bias prevents us from understanding the possibility or the seriousness of a crisis or a natural disaster.

Example: Normalcy bias
Officials issue a hurricane warning in your area, advising everyone to evacuate their homes. On your way out, you run into your neighbor, who has no intention of leaving because they believe it is “just another storm.” Their conviction that it’s not going to be that bad and their refusal to heed the warnings are signs of normalcy bias.

Because normalcy bias can lead us to believe that nothing serious is going to happen, we may not take appropriate or adequate preparations for a crisis and might put ourselves at risk.

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What Is Correspondence Bias? | Definition & Example

Correspondence bias is the tendency to form assumptions about a person’s character based on their behavior. When we try to explain why people act in a certain way, we often focus on personality traits, underestimating the power of specific situations to lead to specific behaviors. In other words, people are inclined to think that others’ actions reflect their personality.

Correspondence bias example
You are driving in heavy rain, and you notice another driver in your rearview window speeding and overtaking other cars. Because of correspondence bias, you are more likely to assume that they are a reckless driver, when perhaps it’s the case that they are rushing to the hospital.

As a result, we are more likely to react negatively to people and hold them directly accountable for their actions, even if this may not be the case.

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What Is Overconfidence Bias? | Definition & Examples

Overconfidence bias is the tendency to overestimate our knowledge and abilities in a certain area. As people often possess incorrect ideas about their performance, behavior, or characteristics, their estimations of risk and success often deviate from reality.

Example: Overconfidence bias
College students often overestimate how quickly they can finish writing a paper and are forced to pull an all-nighter when they realize it takes longer than expected. This is overconfidence bias at play.

Overconfidence bias can impact decision-making and interfere with our ability to exercise caution.

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What Is the Egocentric Bias? | Definition & Examples

The egocentric bias refers to people’s tendency to fixate on their own perspective when examining events or beliefs. Under the egocentric bias, we see things as being more centered on ourselves than is actually the case. This results in a distorted view of reality that makes it difficult for us to acknowledge other people’s perspectives and feelings.

Example: The egocentric bias
You are asked to give a welcome speech to new students. As you start talking, you notice how nervous you feel, and you assume that your nervousness is obvious to others because of your movements or your shaky voice. This thought increases your stress even more.

However, in reality none of this is obvious to your audience. In fact, they are more stressed out because this is their first day of school. The egocentric bias causes you to focus on your own anxieties and fail to see things from the other person’s point of view.

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What Is Status Quo Bias? | Definition & Examples

Status quo bias refers to people’s preference for keeping things the way they currently are. Under status quo bias, people perceive change as a risk or a loss. Because of this, they try to maintain the current situation. This can impact the quality of their decisions.

Example: Status quo bias
You are having dinner with your friends at a restaurant you go to often. Looking at the menu, you feel tempted to try a new dish. However, you are really hungry, and you don’t want to risk choosing something you don’t like.

Because of status quo bias, you want to be on the safe side. You order the same dish as you always do, rather than take the risk on a new (and potentially tastier) option.

Status quo bias can create resistance to change, hinder progress, or cause us to miss out on valuable opportunities.

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What Is Bias for Action? | Definition & Examples

Bias for action (also called action bias) is the tendency to favor action over inaction. Because of bias for action, we often feel compelled to act, even when we don’t have all the information we need or are uncertain about the outcome.

Example: Bias for action
Suppose that you are a sales representative and your team is under pressure to meet the monthly sales quota. Here are two possible scenarios:

  • When you realize that you are not on track to meet your goals, you feel frustrated. However, since you are not the head of the department, there’s nothing you can do. You wait for instructions, hoping that your supervisor will figure something out.
  • When you realize that you are not on track to meet your goals, you immediately take on more responsibility and start cold-calling. Because of your quick response, your team meets its goals for the month.

In the second scenario, you clearly showed bias for action. 

Depending on the situation, bias for action can be beneficial for our personal and professional growth. It can also cause us to act impulsively.

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What Is Perception Bias? | Definition & Examples

Perception bias is the tendency to perceive ourselves and our environment in a subjective way. Although we like to think our judgment is impartial, we are, in fact, unconsciously influenced by our assumptions and expectations.

Example: Perception bias
After a few weeks at your new job, you notice that some of your colleagues always go for after-work drinks on Fridays. It’s not an official team event, but each week the same person asks who’s joining and books a table. However, no one ever asks the older colleagues to join, assuming that they won’t be interested.

If left unchecked, perception bias can affect how we evaluate ourselves and others. As a result, we may form inaccurate impressions.This, in turn, can impact the quality of our decision-making.

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