4 Psychological Biases That Dramatically Reduce Your Intelligence

Want to be more intelligent? Learn to curb these 4 biases.

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Your mind has a tendency to shoot itself in the foot.

It is stuck in its ways. And those ways prevent you from growing smarter.

While your mind is vulnerable to thousands of biases, these 4 significantly stop your intelligence from booming. And hence, you should know how to fight them. 

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Here are 4 psychological biases that dramatically reduce your intelligence:

1. Confirmation bias 

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values. It may play a role in your life in two major ways.

  • Your mind shines a spotlight on evidence supporting your belief and purposefully rejects evidence against it. For instance, let’s say you believe that your husband is unhelpful. And in the past week, you asked for his help 12 times, of which, he helped 8 times and did not 4 times. Due to confirmation bias, you’ll be more likely to remember the instances where he didn’t help you and forget the times he did.
  • You seek evidence that supports your belief. For example, if you believe in God, you might read more and more religious texts, however, you’ll never read a book or open an article that presents theories or evidence against God.

Confirmation bias is like a psychological marsh. You keep getting sucked more and more into your belief — irrespective of whether what you believe is true or not. And the deeper you get sucked in, the harder it is to get out.


If what you believe is true, no harm is done. However, if what you believe is false, which is the case many times, the result is not great.

How to fight it:

One way to fight this bias is to acknowledge that you’re prone to this bias — even if you think you’re very smart. This awareness in itself will reduce your vulnerability to this bias.

Another way is to use the scientific method to prove things: Most people try to prove their theories in life by finding supporting evidence. But this is wrong — because it makes you vulnerable to confirmation bias. What you can instead do is use the scientific method to test your theory. This involves purposefully trying to prove your beliefs wrong by finding evidence against them. When you do this, you have evidence on both sides of any belief —

  • Your mind finds supporting evidence by itself.
  • You purposefully find counter-evidence.

When you have both, you can weigh them against each other and find the truth.

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2. Conservatism bias 

Confirmation bias keeps you from observing evidence that goes against your beliefs. But even when you end up observing such counterevidence — maybe you actively look for it, or it becomes so apparent that you cannot ignore it anymore — there’s still a hurdle to changing your beliefs. This is conservatism bias; our tendency to stick to our beliefs even when presented with irrefutable evidence against them.

This happens primarily for two reasons:

  • Our mind likes certainty much more than the truth. And hence, it doesn’t like to swing on either side of a belief. Your mind likes to be consistent and certain about its beliefs — irrespective of whether it’s true or not.
  • Changing your beliefs feels hypocritical. And nobody likes to be a hypocrite.

And hence, conservatism bias prevents us from changing our beliefs and it goes to extraordinary lengths to do so. For instance, if you find damning evidence against your belief, your mind may in turn make up even more damning yet bulls*** evidence that supports your original belief.

How to fight it:

Here too, you need to acknowledge the presence of this bias. You have to accept the fact that your mind sometimes cooks a bulls*** pie to fool you into not changing your beliefs.

Second, accept that you don’t know everything. And that you can be wrong. When you think about it like this, changing your beliefs over time equals learning, not hypocrisy.


Third: train your mind to believe that it’s better to be confused about the truth than to strongly believe what’s clearly not true. Teach your mind to value the truth over certainty, and you’ll be good.

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?" — John Kaynes

3. The Dunning-Kruger bias

The first rule of the dunning-kruger club is that you’re not aware of the fact that you’re a part of it.

When software engineers at two companies were asked to rate their performance, 32% of the engineers at the first company and 42% at the second company put themselves in the top 5%. And of course, this is not possible as it violates the laws of math. This tendency of humans to overestimate their competency is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.


This happens due to our ego. It’s hard to accept that we’re less competent; hence, we lie to ourselves and the world that we’re more. However, this stupid psychological attempt to protect our egos is very harmful because if we believe we’re already competent, there’s nothing pushing us to learn more. And also, if we believe that we’re more competent than someone else, we’ll be hesitant to learn from them even if they can teach us.

How to fight it:

Again, step one is to be aware of this effect. Ask yourself if you’re a part of this club (you most likely are because most of us are) and have the courage to give an honest answer. It might sting short term — but it will be great for you in the long term. For instance, if you feel you’re very competent but keep getting passed over for a promotion again and again — it’s possible that it’s not office politics, just that you’re less competent than you thought.

Second: remember that what you don’t know will always far exceed what you do know. Let this push you to keep learning no matter how competent you think you are, or how competent you actually are. There’s no valid reason to stop learning except for death. So if you stop learning, you’re as good as dead anyway.


Third, know that everyone can teach you something; even people who’re less competent than you.

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4. Groupthink bias 

We’re herd animals who live in societies, and hence, we feel the need to conform to the people around us. We don’t like going against others for fear of being rejected or even thrown out of our circles. This biases us to believe what the majority believes.

However, this is a problem.


Everyone on this earth is deeply influenced by the biases I mentioned above and in addition to that vulnerable to hundreds of common errors of thinking. Only a very few (perhaps only 1%) have adequately freed themselves from these influences and learned to think clearly. But since we’re biased towards conformity, we tend to get pulled by the beliefs of the 99%, not of the 1%.

Even if you want to let go of flawed beliefs, it’s hard to do so because you’re biased toward conformity. And even if you somehow free yourself from this bias and are in the process of adopting new, better beliefs, the people around you will try to pull you back. They’ll do this because they think your beliefs are stupid. Ironic.

How to fight it:

Acknowledge that the majority has flawed beliefs because their minds are vulnerable to errors of thinking. Only a very few have freed themselves. Follow them.


From time to time, ask yourself how similar your beliefs are to the majority. When they are, know that something needs to change. As Mark Twain said, "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform, pause or reflect."

  • Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values
  • Conservatism bias is an inability to change your beliefs even when enough facts are presented.
  • The Dunning-Kruger bias is the tendency to overestimate your competency.
  • Groupthink bias is our tendency to be pulled toward the beliefs of the majority.

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Akshad Singi, M.D. has been published in Better Humans, Mind Cafe, and more.