Thursday, March 13, 2008

Plan Continuation Bias

In the study of airline safety, we know that when problems force a pilot to have to decide whether to continue or change course, something called plan continuation bias can get in the way.

Plan continuation bias is the tendency of people to continue to follow their original plan, even in the face of evidence that the circumstances have changed. Apparently, we have an unconscious bias in thinking that leads us to follow our original course of action, particularly when we are close to the end.

I'm thinking of waiting in line in the bank. Once you pick the line, you stand in it for awhile, and the longer you stand there the less you want to move. You've already invested in the line. You've put in some time. It's too late to change now.

I'm also thinking of life choices. You've been in the job for umpteen years, you've been in the relationship for as many, you've lived in the city forever, and so on.

It's just another thing that gets in the way of change.

The way we usually try to cope with cognitive biases and distortions is to:

Identify the thought: for example, I'll never find a job I'm happy with.
What's the evidence for it?: It seems like it would be really hard to find something better.
Come up with alternatives: Maybe I need to look around a little and explore options.
Change behavior accordingly: Start researching new job ops.

I think it's quite possible, likely even, that we blindly go through lots of days, relationships, habits, etc., without really considering the evidence. Do I really want this, enjoy this, need this, like this?

Consider the possibilities. After all, life is a highway (TomCochrane).


Anonymous said...

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And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :)

Anonymous said...

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