It is now well known, and to some degree accepted, that specific types of cognitive biases can have a big impact on our decision making process. For example, the recency effect suggests that we give too much weight to the last paper we read or presentation we hear. Or the gambler’s fallacy that “someone must win” leads to all manner of distorted decisions and investments. There are literally hundreds of such biases that warp (from the perfectly rational) our decision-making processes on everything from buying a lottery ticket to deciding on a career.
An interesting HBR post on Managing Atmospherics in Decision Making, takes it one step further. The author, Rob Duboff, argues that our decision-making process is influenced by a host of external factors such as color, music, appeal to authority and priming that he calls atmospherics. To quote:
”It’s not just that decision-makers don’t refer to data in making choices – they don’t even necessarily decide based on “gut feel.” Decisions are being made because of external and seemingly extraneous factors that work on a wholly unconscious level, bypassing even the gut.”
This is important for cognitive designers because it shifts the focus of attention from “the gut” or the realm of cognitive biases to external factors.