Improspectives

Improv skills lead to success

Cognitive Biases are Fun!

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George Carlin once pointed out that comedy depends on exaggeration — to make something funny, you must distort one aspect of the situation or description to introduce humor.

If you’re thinking, “I don’t have to exaggerate anything…I make enough mistakes to feed a hundred comics for a year,” you’re probably right. We’re all susceptible to cognitive biases that skew our  judgment. If you’ve read any of Dan Ariely’s work (Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty) or read the pop psych literature, you know the human mind is a frighteningly powerful yet flawed instrument.

I have good news: you can identify and minimize the impact of cognitive biases. What’s more, performers can use them to create humorous situations on stage. I downloaded a list of cognitive biases and will do my best to explore how they affect the world where business and funny intersect.

I first thought of writing a series of posts after a ComedySportz gig for health care professional employed by the Oregon penal system. One of their handouts (I always grab the handouts) listed about 120 cognitive biases and logical traps affecting the reasoning inmates and others use to assess their circumstances. I’ll leave the connection between prison, work, and comedy to your fertile brains.

First up? Everyone’s favorite trap: confirmation bias.

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