Up until election night back in November, even most pollsters didn’t foresee a Trump win in the Presidential election. Polling numbers had showed him far behind for months, and he only made small gains leading up to the election. His win was a total shock to many people, especially after some particularly damning footage of him was released shortly before the election. In the days leading up to the inauguration, many were left asking how this could have possibly happened. The answer is more simple than most people realize- Trump may owe his win to cognitive bias.
Cognitive bias is the innate flaws in our judgement that determine how we make decisions about our everyday lives. Each of us has filters that allow us to bend facts to our own particular worldviews, so while we may believe we are acting logically we are actually bending the logic to fit our own personal belief systems. So in this particular election all the folks who couldn’t understand how Trump won were interpreting the facts as they saw them through the lens of their own particular cognitive biases, while those who voted for Trump were interpreting the facts as they unfolded through their own particular cognitive biases. In short, if you liked Trump there were no facts that could dissuade you from casting your vote, while if you didn’t like Trump there were no facts that could dissuade you from voting for a different candidate.
Over time your brain creates shortcuts- substitutes for thinking through an entire problem in order to save time. Certain parts of the thought process are substituted with previous life experiences as a shortcut, getting you to your logical conclusion a little faster. Even superficial characteristics of Presidential candidates often comes into play when voters make decisions for whatever reason- 67% of Presidential winners have been the taller of the two candidates, while a small percentage of Presidential candidates have received more votes just for being listed first on the ballot. Rather than considering these facts due to stupidity, consider that some people may have taken the mental shortcut that tells them if you are listed first you must be better or if you are taller you must be better at physical tasks.
There are many reasons why people make decisions, including emotions, social pressures, and personal beliefs. But it’s worthwhile to examine how cognitive bias affects our everyday decision making. Learn more from this infographic!