Avoiding The 5 Cognitive Biases That Are Ruining Your Dating Life


Reality. It’s what still exists when you close your eyes. The thing is, though, that’s a lot less than you might normally think.

The problem? Your brain. You think it’s some kind of awesome super computer meets nanny cam. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. There’s an old, possibly apocryphal story about a college psychology professor who used to have a TA come out and “stab” him with a banana in front of his class before he fell the floor.

Everyone, to a man, “saw” a knife. Why? Because it’s what they expected to see. Rather than taking in information and drawing conclusions, their brain drew conclusions and then formed the correct evidence for them.

This is an example of cognitive bias. While kind of silly it’s worth considering how many of these you do on a daily basis. Now apply it to your dating life: Are you actively assuming interest all the time? For example, when a girl giggles do you assume that she’s laughing at you or that your swagger makes her so nervous she has no choice but to giggle like a schoolgirl?

There are a wide number of cognitive biases out there that are negatively impacting your life professionally, socially and romantically. We’ve compiled some of the most common, along with tips and hacks that you can use to correct them.

Confirmation Bias

Remember the story about the psych students who thought a banana was a knife? That’s an example of confirmation bias. It as, as we say above, when the brain retro-engineers what it thinks it saw for the purpose of confirming a conclusion that it’s already come to.

How It’s Affecting Your Dating Life: You’re assuming things about what women think about you that aren’t true. What’s more, they’re mostly bad.

How to Control for Confirmation Bias: Avoid jumping to conclusions. Collect evidence and make conclusions only after that. When in doubt, always assume the most positive outcome possible and go from there.

Observational Selection Bias

Have you ever seen something once and then you can’t stop seeing it everywhere? That’s observational selection bias. It’s why a lot of people ascribe significance to certain numbers, as in the case of William Burroughs’ “23 Enigma.” Put simply, your brain has decided to start noticing something to the exclusion of other things.

How It’s Affecting Your Dating Life: If you’re a guy who has a lot of deal breakers, or filters out a ton of women without filtering any in, there’s a good chance you’re suffering from the effects of observational selection bias.

How to Control for Observational Selection Bias: Keep an open mind and when you catch yourself noticing something small about a woman, then drawing a bunch of conclusions about it, realize that this is what you’re doing. Then go back to creating a connection with the woman that you’ve never met before.

Negativity Bias

People have a natural tendency to remember bad times better than good times. There’s a reason for this: There’s a far greater evolutionary pressure on remembering bad things than good things. After all, people who don’t remember good things, but remember bad things, are more able to avoid bad things and thus reproduce than people who only remember the good but never the bad.

How It’s Affecting Your Dating Life: If you’re not the guy who imposes every bad experience he’s ever had with a woman on every woman that he meets, you surely know him. Even if you’re not that guy, there’s a good chance you’re missing some of your “at bats” because all you can remember are the times you struck out, not the times that you hit it out of the park.

How to Control for Negativity Bias: Every time that you remember something “bad” about your dating life, think of something “good.” It releases chemicals in your brain that counteract bad memories. What’s more, it will put you into a positive framework for your approach!

Projection Bias

This one is commonly understood: Assuming that your subjective reality is identical to that of other people’s. Assuming that how you feel and react to things is how other people are going to feel and react to things. There are a million applications of this type of cognitive bias, but they all boil down to not understanding how you and others are different.

How It’s Affecting Your Dating Life: If you think that women think like men do, you’re gonna have a bad time…

How to Control for Projection Bias: Beyond just taking a minute to think about how another person’s thought process might work, you’d be amazed at how much a daily meditation regimen can help you to stop projecting onto others.

Optimism Bias

There’s a negativity bias — how can there be an optimism bias too? Well, the short answer is that they operate in totally different ways. While negativity bias has you remembering all the times things didn’t go like you wanted them to, optimism bias has you projecting a far-too-optimistic vision of how your future plans are going to work out.

How It’s Affecting Your Dating Life: You might go into things with rose-colored glasses with a girl when you have no reason to. You might ignore signs that things are not going well and invest more into a relationship than you need to.

How to Control for Optimism Bias: In most cases, you want to use optimism bias to your advantage rather than trying to control for it. However, in cases like the above, be brutally honest with yourself and ask yourself if you’re giving more than you’re putting in. It’s a good question to ask yourself in just about any scenario.

Five cognitive biases. Five things you or your buddies are almost certainly doing that’s making your love life more difficult and complicated than it needs to be. Start counteracting them today with these tips. 

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