Cognitive Biases that affect Marriages

Cognitive Biases that affect Marriages

As much as we may try to be rational and logical, there are times when we fall prey to Cognitive biases and such biases may distort our thinking. Cognitive biases are defined as mental short cuts which we rely on, due to which we may end up making judgements with partial information. There are times, when such biases can have an effect on marriages too, causing significant distress among couples, let us figure out how.

Some of the Cognitive biases that may affect marriages are:

  • The Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias is defined the tendency to only listen to those things and only pay partial attention to the details that verify our already existing beliefs and refusing to listen to the opposite side. Now, this creates communication barriers and poses problems between couples. During a discussion or argument, both the partners may only pay attention to details that validate their beliefs, refusing to listen to the other partner and both may walk away with varying interpretations of the same ting, causing miscommunication between the two.

  • The Hindsight Bias

This is the tendency to see all events as predictable and having a sense of “knowing it all along”. It is not uncommon for couples to have fights and arguments. Hindsight bias convinces partners that they knew all along that their partner is irritable and that fights would break out between them. This strengthens their belief that getting into the marriage was not the right thing to do and that it is futile to make any efforts to make the relationship work.

  • Anchoring Bias

This is the tendency to rely heavily on the first piece of information that is heard. Let us take a small instance to understand this. One of the partners tells their partner they are going for work and accidently bump into a friend that their [partner despises, now another friend of theirs witnesses this and rattles out the whole story to the other partner. There is a high chance that the partner who heard a partial piece of information may believe their friend and feel that their partner is lying to them without giving them a chance to explain themselves. This can cause misunderstanding and fights among partners.

  • The Actor-Observer Bias

This is defined as the tendency to attribute our behaviour to external cause and the behaviour of others to internal causes. This results in a tendency among couples to rationalise their behaviour as causes by the environment and the behaviour of their partner as caused by their internal factors. Now for instance, if a couple breaks out into a fight, one of the partners may rationalise by saying that they were annoyed by the excess noise and chaos in the house and blame their partner to be impatient. This can result in the partners feeling that the other one is always wrong and fails to understand their partner.

  • Fundamental Attribution Error

This is defined as the tendency to attribute behaviours of individuals to non-verified stereotypes. Even at the slightest inconvenience, partners may justify the behaviour of the other partner based on stereotypes, stating “this is how husbands/wives are” or “You always do this”, without allowing the partners to justify themselves.

  • Pessimism Bias

This is defined the tendency to always focus only on the negative outlook. As a result of this bias, partners may only pay attention to negative outcomes and expect the worst out of things, making it hard for partners to trust on each other.

  • The Dunning Kruger Effect

This is defined as the tendency to not be able to understand the complexity of things due to limited knowledge of individuals. Partners may fail to understand the complexity of things due to their limited knowledge on subject matters and may blame their partners for being over-reactive.

  • Negativity Bias

As a result of negativity bias, negative events are likely to have a greater impact on individuals than positive ones. As a result of this, partners may only focus on what wrong their partners have done and completely forgetting all their good deeds causing distress between them.

What can be done to deal with Cognitive Biases

Be aware of the biases, and try to rationalise before making any judgements

Consider current factors that may be influencing your decision and eliminate the irrational factor

Reflect on the past

Be curious to explore the depth of things before making judgements with partial information

Strive for a growth mindset

Identify what makes you uncomfortable and address it with your partner

Embrace the opposite and be open to listening to what the other person has to say and understand their perspective too

Seek multiple perspectives on an issue and evaluate the perspectives before making judgements

We may not even realise that we have fallen prey to Cognitive biases and it may greatly impact our relationships. This makes it crucial to understand what Cognitive Biases are, identify them and deal effectively with them, in order to avoid relationship distress as a result of our cognitive distortions.

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