15 cognitive biases that screw up your relationships

Even the most intelligent and empathetic people are plagued by psychological pitfalls that prevent them from fully understanding other people.

In fact, we’re pretty much hardwired to make mistakes in our judgments of and behaviour toward others.

Here, we’ve rounded up 15 cognitive biases that affect our everyday interactions. The scary part is that most of them happen without us even noticing.

Curse of knowledge


When people who are well-informed cannot understand the common man. For instance, in the TV show 'The Big Bang Theory,' it's difficult for scientist Sheldon Cooper to understand his waitress neighbour Penny.


When we believe the world is a better place than it is, we aren't prepared for the danger and violence we may encounter. The inability to accept the full breadth of human nature leaves us vulnerable.

Pessimism bias

This is the opposite of the overoptimism bias. Pessimists over-weigh negative consequences with their own and others' actions. Those who are depressed are more likely to exhibit the pessimism bias.

Self-enhancing transmission bias

Boonsri Dickinson, Business Insider

Everyone shares their successes more than their failures. This leads to a false perception of reality and inability to accurately assess situations.

It's also why people seem way happier on Instagram than anyone could be in real life.


Expecting a group or person to have certain qualities without having real information about the individual.

There may be some value to stereotyping because it allows us to quickly identify strangers as friends or enemies. But people tend to overuse it -- for example, thinking low-income individuals aren't as competent as higher-income people.

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