The Art of Thinking Clearly Checklist

There are many mental traps that you can fall into when making decisions. Knowing what they are can help reduce, but not eliminate, the chance of making errors in judgement. It is better to focus on what not to do (via negativa), ie: what factors contribute to failure/bad decisions and try to avoid those. It is unclear what consistently causes success, but we have a good sense of what doesn’t cause success. Following this line of thinking is common among many successful people – they understand their limitations (or circle of competence), and do their best to act within them.

The Art of Thinking Clearly revisited some biases I was already aware of from reading about similar topics, and introduced me to some interesting ones such as the Feature-Positive effect: how it’s much harder to notice the absence of something than the presence of something.

As a result I made a simple list, possibly to be used as a checklist, of the biases listed in the book. I plan to revisit it often, especially when making major decisions or examining specific opinions I hold to see if I’m falling into any traps.

Note: this is just a direct copy/paste from the Table of Contents, so some things may not be clear if you haven’t read the book.

  1. Why You Should Visit Cemeteries: Survivorship Bias
  2. Does Harvard Make You Smarter?: Swimmer’s Body Illusion
  3. Why You See Shapes in the Clouds: Clustering Illusion
  4. If Fifty Million People Say Something Foolish, It Is Still Foolish: Social Proof
  5. Why You Should Forget the Past: Sunk Cost Fallacy
  6. Don’t Accept Free Drinks: Reciprocity
  7. Beware the “Special Case”: Confirmation Bias (Part 1)
  8. Murder Your Darlings: Confirmation Bias (Part 2)
  9. Don’t Bow to Authority: Authority Bias
  10. Leave Your Supermodel Friends at Home: Contrast Effect
  11. Why We Prefer a Wrong Map to None at All: Availability Bias
  12. Why “No Pain, No Gain” Should Set Alarm Bells Ringing: The It’ll-Get-Worse-Before-It-Gets-Better Fallacy
  13. Even True Stories Are Fairy Tales: Story Bias
  14. Why You Should Keep a Diary: Hindsight Bias
  15. Why You Systematically Overestimate Your Knowledge and Abilities: Overconfidence Effect
  16. Don’t Take News Anchors Seriously: Chauffeur Knowledge
  17. You Control Less Than You Think: Illusion of Control
  18. Never Pay Your Lawyer by the Hour: Incentive Super-Response Tendency
  19. The Dubious Efficacy of Doctors, Consultants, and Psychotherapists: Regression to Mean
  20. Never Judge a Decision by Its Outcome: Outcome Bias
  21. Less Is More: Paradox of Choice
  22. You Like Me, You Really, Really Like Me: Liking Bias
  23. Don’t Cling to Things: Endowment Effect
  24. The Inevitability of Unlikely Events: Coincidence
  25. The Calamity of Conformity: Groupthink
  26. Why You’ll Soon Be Playing Mega Trillions: Neglect of Probability
  27. Why the Last Cookie in the Jar Makes Your Mouth Water: Scarcity Error
  28. When You Hear Hoofbeats, Don’t Expect a Zebra: Base-Rate Neglect
  29. Why the “Balancing Force of the Universe” Is Baloney: Gambler’s Fallacy
  30. Why the Wheel of Fortune Makes Our Heads Spin: The Anchor
  31. How to Relieve People of Their Millions: Induction
  32. Why Evil Is More Striking Than Good: Loss Aversion
  33. Why Teams Are Lazy: Social Loafing
  34. Stumped by a Sheet of Paper: Exponential Growth
  35. Curb Your Enthusiasm: Winner’s Curse
  36. Never Ask a Writer If the Novel Is Autobiographical: Fundamental Attribution Error
  37. Why You Shouldn’t Believe in the Stork: False Causality
  38. Why Attractive People Climb the Career Ladder More Quickly: Halo Effect
  39. Congratulations! You’ve Won Russian Roulette: Alternative Paths
  40. False Prophets: Forecast Illusion
  41. The Deception of Specific Cases: Conjunction Fallacy
  42. It’s Not What You Say, but How You Say It: Framing
  43. Why Watching and Waiting Is Torture: Action Bias
  44. Why You Are Either the Solution—or the Problem: Omission Bias
  45. Don’t Blame Me: Self-Serving Bias
  46. Be Careful What You Wish For: Hedonic Treadmill
  47. Do Not Marvel at Your Existence: Self-Selection Bias
  48. Why Experience Can Damage Your Judgment: Association Bias
  49. Be Wary When Things Get Off to a Great Start: Beginner’s Luck
  50. Sweet Little Lies: Cognitive Dissonance
  51. Live Each Day as If It Were Your Last—but Only on Sundays: Hyperbolic Discounting
  52.  Any Lame Excuse: “Because” Justification
  53. Decide Better—Decide Less: Decision Fatigue
  54. Would You Wear Hitler’s Sweater?: Contagion Bias
  55. Why There Is No Such Thing as an Average War: The Problem with Averages
  56. How Bonuses Destroy Motivation: Motivation Crowding
  57. If You Have Nothing to Say, Say Nothing: Twaddle Tendency
  58. How to Increase the Average IQ of Two States: Will Rogers Phenomenon
  59. If You Have an Enemy, Give Him Information: Information Bias
  60. Hurts So Good: Effort Justification
  61. Why Small Things Loom Large: The Law of Small Numbers
  62. Handle with Care: Expectations
  63. Speed Traps Ahead!: Simple Logic
  64. How to Expose a Charlatan: Forer Effect
  65. Volunteer Work Is for the Birds: Volunteer’s Folly
  66. Why You Are a Slave to Your Emotions: Affect Heuristic
  67. Be Your Own Heretic: Introspection Illusion
  68. Why You Should Set Fire to Your Ships: Inability to Close Doors
  69. Disregard the Brand New: Neomania
  70. Why Propaganda Works: Sleeper Effect
  71. Why It’s Never Just a Two-Horse Race: Alternative Blindness
  72. Why We Take Aim at Young Guns: Social Comparison Bias
  73. Why First Impressions Are Deceiving: Primacy and Recency Effects
  74. Why You Can’t Beat Homemade: Not-Invented-Here Syndrome
  75. How to Profit from the Implausible: The Black Swan
  76. Knowledge Is Nontransferable: Domain Dependence
  77. The Myth of Like-Mindedness: False-Consensus Effect
  78. You Were Right All Along: Falsification of History
  79. Why You Identify with Your Football Team: In-Group Out-Group Bias
  80. The Difference between Risk and Uncertainty: Ambiguity Aversion
  81. Why You Go with the Status Quo: Default Effect
  82. Why “Last Chances” Make Us Panic: Fear of Regret
  83. How Eye-Catching Details Render Us Blind: Salience Effect
  84. Why Money Is Not Naked: House-Money Effect
  85. Why New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work: Procrastination
  86. Build Your Own Castle: Envy
  87. Why You Prefer Novels to Statistics: Personification
  88. You Have No Idea What You Are Overlooking: Illusion of Attention
  89. Hot Air: Strategic Misrepresentation
  90. Where’s the Off Switch?: Overthinking
  91. Why You Take On Too Much: Planning Fallacy
  92. Those Wielding Hammers See Only Nails: Déformation Professionnelle
  93. Mission Accomplished: Zeigarnik Effect
  94. The Boat Matters More Than the Rowing: Illusion of Skill
  95. Why Checklists Deceive You: Feature-Positive Effect
  96. Drawing the Bull’s-Eye around the Arrow: Cherry Picking
  97. The Stone Age Hunt for Scapegoats: Fallacy of the Single Cause
  98. Why Speed Demons Appear to Be Safer Drivers: Intention-to-Treat Error
  99. Why You Shouldn’t Read the News: News Illusion

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