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9 Cognitive Biases All Conversion Optimizers Must Practice And Understand

Our thoughts are not our own. They've been shaped and molded by our experiences and the way we view the world around us.


This is known as a cognitive bias.


You're inclined to think one way but your customer who has a different background than you has another outlook on life. And in conversion rate optimization we need to be aware of the kinds of biases that exist and that affect our target users.


Biases are all around us. We're affected by them, whether we know it or not. Even if you think you're not affected by any biases, that's a bias in itself. This bias is called blind spot bias where people see themselves as less biased than others.


There is a huge list of biases you can familiarize yourself with. But, today we're going to talk about 9 different biases everyone in conversion rate optimization needs to be aware of.



1. False Consensus Bias: You Think the World is Like You.



This is the tendency for people to overestimate the degree to which other people agree with them.


You have a solid idea and you think it's so good that everyone else is on board too. You're confident that others agree with you. But, the truth is they probably don't.


Let's say, for instance, you absolutely detest chocolate cake. You hate it so much you can't imagine anybody would want to eat it. You even find yourself wondering how many people like it at all.


And, to your surprise you run into people from time to time who love it so much they can't live without it.


People tend to automatically assume that other people have the same preferences they have. This is an issue that puts all small group feedback into question.


You have to also take all individual feedback with a grain of salt, realizing everyone views the world through the lens of their own individual biases.


You may see the world one way but there are lots of other people in the world who think differently than you. So if you're testing a website never assume your target users are just like you.


2. The Curse of Knowledge.



Have you ever wished you could erase something from your memory? Maybe you think you know too much about a particular subject?


But the problem is, you can't. Once you learn something you can't unlearn it. The information is there, forever stored in your memory.


This is even more true when you know everything there is to know on a particular topic.


Let's say, for example,you're a professional Pastry Chef. You've got over 30 years experience, you've endured rigorous training, and you've studied under all the world's top pastry chefs.


You're considered an expert, by most standards. And as an expert baker who's been cooking up cakes for over 30 years, you think of baking differently than a newbie who's hasn't baked her first cake yet.


You have the curse of knowledge.


Now let's look at a CRO example. Let's say you add some new buttons and links to your website to improve the user experience. The minute you do it you can no longer analyze the site like a user.


So, when it comes to evaluating the website again your best bet is to get the opinion of someone with a fresh set of eyes.


3. Anchoring.



Anchoring is the tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered. It occurs during the decision-making process when people use an initial piece of information to make subsequent judgments.


So, let's say you're optimizing a website and receive information from a user test that the images were problematic. You decide to take that information and test static images vs. sliders on the homepage.


This is making a decision and being anchored in that decision.


You're limited by the initial piece of data and far less likely to consider a radical redesign.


4. Egocentric Bias.



This bias involves recalling the past in a self-serving manner.


Let's say you took an exam last year and got an 82. When asked how you did, instead of telling what actually happened you embellish the truth and say your score was close to 90.


5. Recency Bias.



This is when you prefer new data over old data because the new appears better.


Have you ever sought a book on a particular topic and chose one over another based on the publication date? Or when writing a blog post have you ever declined to include some information because the source was cited several years ago?


We are inclined to think newer is better which is not always the case.


6. Selective Perception.



This is when people perceive what they want and ignore all opposing viewpoints. When it comes to marketing, it means people will only pay attention to messages they like.


Have you ever seen a magazine or newspaper with a bunch of ads on one page? And out of all those ads, which ones stood out to you?


I'm guessing it's the ones about products you liked.



7. Confirmation Bias.



People tend to test things that confirm information they already think is true. Confirmation bias makes people want to try and reinforce their ideas, believing their views are correct.


8. Congruence Bias.