Cognitive theory can explain several of our mental predelictions and help us avoid some that are deleterious. A handful of examples come from an article by Michael Maslanka, in the Texas Lawyer, March 28, 2007. Maslanka explains the fundamental attribution bias and how easy it is for us to be credulous, since we find it easy to believe but difficult to doubt (See my post of May 14, 2006 on the fundamental attribution error.). Perhaps we should call this the Easy Sucker Bias. He also explains confirmation bias: “Our brains latch onto a belief and defend it by accepting only facts supporting it, or rejecting it or – even worse – distorting contrary information.” (See my post of April 17, 2006 on this human proclivity.)
A new point, however, is the one I want to highlight. Maslanka links our genetic hardwiring to the way we tend to speak broadly and with conclusions. That cognitive bias toward shorthand thinking might have helped us survive but it isn’t what decision makers should do generally. A general counsel neds to cut through generalizations and pay attention to specific facts.