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Understanding Attentional Bias: A Friendly Guide

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06 May 2024


Have you ever noticed how sometimes your thoughts seem magnetically drawn to a particular worry or interest? Whether it's continuously checking your phone, fretting over a specific business decision, or consistently focusing on negative news, this phenomenon is known as attentional bias. In simple terms, attentional bias is the tendency of our perception to be affected by our recurring thoughts.


What is Attentional Bias?

In the world of psychology, attentional bias refers to how our current thoughts and feelings steer us to pay more attention to specific types of information while ignoring others. This isn't necessarily bad, as it often helps us to focus on immediate and important tasks, but sometimes it can skew our perception.

For example, if you're really into baking, you might notice you're more attuned to any conversation or TV program about baking. This is your brain prioritizing information that resonates with your interests and emotions at that time.


Why Does It Matter?

Awareness of attentional biases is crucial because they can influence our decisions and actions, sometimes to our disadvantage. By understanding and recognizing these biases, we can make more balanced and thoughtful decisions.


Attentional Bias in Business

For business owners, attentional bias can have significant implications. Consider a business owner, Sarah, who has recently suffered a considerable financial loss because a product didn't sell as expected. Moving forward, Sarah might become overly cautious or pessimistic about new initiatives. Her attention could be biased towards picking up signs of another potential failure rather than equally acknowledging indicators of potential success.

This focus on the negative could prevent Sarah from taking calculated risks that could benefit her business. Her decisions might favor short-term safety and miss out on long-term opportunities. The attentional bias here leads to a lack of balance in decision-making, skewing towards avoidance of failure rather than pursuit of success.


Balancing Attentional Bias

So, how can business owners like Sarah balance their attentional bias to make better decisions? Awareness is the first step. Recognizing that you might be weighing some types of information more heavily than others can help you take a step back and re-evaluate. Seeking diverse perspectives and data can counteract the skew, providing a more rounded view of the situation. Sometimes, consulting with colleagues, mentors, or even delving into industry analysis can provide insights that your biases might have led you to overlook.



Understanding and adjusting for attentional biases is a crucial skill, especially in fields where decision-making is pivotal, such as in business. By actively seeking a balanced view and being aware of our cognitive leanings, we can make more informed, effective choices. Remember, it's about broadening the lens through which we view our world and our decisions. 


I learned about this bias working with a coach. They pointed out a tendency I had when I worked through decisions. As they described how i was processing things...a huge light bulb went off for me. For me, it speaks to the importance of having a coach or trusted advisor when you own a business. Being able to get that outside perspective is incredibly important.


**check out a Facebook Group I am launching: Flight School for Business. Teaching you how to get your business to soar.



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