Cognitive Biases: Myopia (Short-Sightedness)

For our second cognitive bias, we will look at myopia. As the name suggests, it occurs when people don’t look ahead and end up in a situation that could have been easily avoided with some foresight.

Another problem humans face when making important decisions is myopic behaviour or acting in a short-sighted manner. When you do not plan ahead for any future changes or impacts, it often causes an irrational decision and outcome which cannot be altered as the effects will only be discovered in the long run. Usually, when a person makes a decision, they may not have the time to think about future consequences or simply do not want to make an effort to do so. In addition, they may ignore any long-term problems caused by their decision in favour of short-term gains and satisfaction. All of this constitutes myopic behaviour, and it can impact a wide variety of factors and cause issues in all of them. One factor that is prone to be affected by myopic behaviour is health. If we look at the different examples given, a person may not take the time to consider the weather and may end up getting sunburnt from not wearing sunscreen. An individual may not want to make an effort to quit eating unhealthy food regularly, and this can lead to obesity and a wide array of other complications.

Finally, someone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol may simply choose to ignore the impacts on health and give in to compulsion, which can lead to serious health risks and possibly death. One common factor among all these examples, and the outcomes of irrational myopic behaviour in general, is that the long-term impact is almost always never worth the short-term gain. Yet, people still behave in this way – this is a common theme in both the retirement savings schemes and other applications of nudges we will explore later. Therefore, nudges are critical in preventing this cognitive bias from taking effect and drastically reducing the number of people falling into this habit.


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