The following interview was conducted with Kevin Akers, co-designer of the App- Fallacies and Biases. The App is a quick reference and memorization tool that includes over 100 logical fallacies and 100 cognitive biases. All information in the app is in the public domain and the vast majority is taken from Wikipedia. The fallacies section is divided into formal and informal fallacies, while the biases section is subdivided into 3 categories. All of the terms can also be viewed in randomized flash cards and multiple choice quiz format to aid in memorization.
Can you give readers a concise definition of cognitive bias? Why is it important to identify and understand cognitive biases?
Cognitive biases are patterns of behavior that lead to poor judgement and/or errors in rationality. Being aware of cognitive biases should help you avoid common errors in thinking.
Why did your company decide to design an app. investigating fallacies and cognitive biases?
The app has two purposes - quick reference and memorization. It seems to be more and more common for public speakers and discussion forum members to call out opposing arguments using fallacy or bias terms. Saying that your debate opponent’s argument is an appeal to authority or a straw man can be an effective way of winning a discussion - but how often are these fallacy terms used incorrectly? Not to mention that believing an argument is strong simply because the speaker is claiming the opposing argument is a fallacy is in itself a fallacy. The app provides buyers with a way to quickly find the definitions for the different fallacies and with tools to memorize them if they would like to do so.
What are a couple of the most prevalent cognitive biases?
One of the most common cognitive biases is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, focus on, and remember information that confirms beliefs that you already have. In other words, you decide something is true and this search for evidence to back up your belief while disregarding evidence that conflicts with your belief. Another common cognitive bias is the availability heuristic. This is a mental shortcut when the thinker overestimates the likelihood of an event based on recent events or emotionally charged events. For example, if you remember a news story about a shark attack, you may think that you are likely to be killed by a shark in the ocean when such an event is actually extremely rare.
Any other sources your recommend readers can refer to in an effort to learn more about cognitive biases?
The app uses information mostly taken from Wikipedia lists, but one of the first books I read on this subject was Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. I highly recommend this book and certainly many of the terms in the app are from his work or research associated with his work.
What are some key takeaways from the app?
This app can help users memorize terms that are associated with errors in thinking and will hopefully lead the user to look up more information about rational thinking. When you learn a few of the more common biases/fallacies you will start to hear and see them everywhere.
Here is a link to the app on the App Store (for iPhone and iPad): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fallacies-and-biases/id789879436?mt=8
Here is a link to Google Play (for Android Phones and Tablets): https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.polemics.fallaciesandbiases
Thanks to Kevin Akers for the interview and for developing a useful App that can be used for quick reference. In addition to the work of Kahneman I recommend reading the works of Stanovich, Baron and Gilovich.