A cognitive bias (e.g. Ariely, 2008) is a systematic (non-random) error in thinking, in the sense that a judgment deviates from what would be considered desirable from the perspective of accepted norms or correct in terms of formal logic. The application of heuristics is often associated with cognitive biases. Some biases, such as those arising from availability or representativeness, are ‘cold’ in the sense that they do not reflect a person’s motivation and are instead the result of errors in information processing. Other cognitive biases, especially those that have a self-serving function (e.g. overconfidence), are more motivated. Finally, there are also biases that can be motivated or unmotivated, such as confirmation bias (Nickerson, 1998).

As the study of heuristics and biases is a core element of behavioral economics, the psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer has cautioned against the trap of a “bias bias” – the tendency to see biases even when there are none (Gigerenzer, 2018).


Ariely, D. (2008). Predictably Irrational. New York: Harper Collins.

Gigerenzer, G. (2018), The bias bias in behavioral economics. Review of Behavioral Economics, 5(3-4), 303-336.

Nickerson, R. S. (1998). Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises. Review of General Psychology, 2, 175-220.