Waiting for our wits to grow sharper? Could be a looong time.

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
Eden Phillpotts, unattributed internet sources (via Freedom From Religion Foundation).

Looks like the universe is going to have to wait one hell of a long time.

The Cognitive Bias Codex, 2016 is a collaboration between Buster Benson, who recategorized Wikipedia’s list of cognitive biases, and John Manoogian III, who transformed Benson’s work into this stunning image:


It’s daunting in its scale, and I’m not just talking about the font size (you can purchase a 24″ x 36″ poster here). Benson’s original article does a good job of explaining the higher-level functioning of our biases: the good, the bad and the ugly. Benson also notes:

Cognitive biases are just tools, useful in the right contexts, harmful in others. They’re the only tools we’ve got, and they’re even pretty good at what they’re meant to do. We might as well get familiar with them and even appreciate that we at least have some ability to process the universe with our mysterious brains.

It’s actually quite remarkable, isn’t it? Big shout out to the scientific method—the only way humans have ever found to overcome our sloppy wetware, however imperfectly, and actually understand anything about the world at all. Well at least some of us do, anyway.

Our cognitive biases don’t appear to be going anywhere, as Benson says, “until we have a way to expand our minds’ computational power and memory storage to match that of the universe.” We may as well stay mindful of them (<-hahaha!), and perhaps by doing so have opportunities to mitigate some of the worst distortions.

Since learning about confirmation bias, I keep seeing it everywhere!

See also: Less Wrong.

[h/t @timminchin]


  1. thebookofdave says

    I don’t have any biases. Sure, the poster looks pretty, but it’s wrong, for reasons I don’t have time to look up or explain.

  2. Siobhan says

    But I’m a Real Academic and therefore Immune to Bias, so please excuse this string of nonsense I’m going to spew out in the name of Real Logic, because I’m a Real Smart Guy and everybody listens when I speak anyway.