Larrick (2004; pdf) offers a small number of suggestions for strategies to diminish bias in decision making, which he breaks down into four categories.

  1. "Consider the opposite". Tell decision-makers to ask themselves "What are some reasons my initial judgment might be wrong?"

  2. Training in rules. Teach statistical and logical principles to decision-makers, e.g. give them lessons on the law of large numbers and regression toward the mean.

  3. Training in representations. Teach decision-makers to represent problems in ways that are likely to ameliorate biases. For instance, encourage decision-makers to represent problems in terms of frequencies rather than probabilities, since evidence suggests people reason more accurately when thinking about the former than about the latter.

  4. Training in biases. Larrick suggests that this boils down to seeing if teaching decision-makers behavioral decision theory has positive effects. Larrick implies that so far there is little evidence to suggest this method would work.


  • What other plausible categories of cognitive strategies exist?
  • What other strategies exist within the categories Larrick has defined?


  • Larrick, R.P. (2004). Debiasing. Blackwell handbook of judgment and decision making, , 316-338. PDF
  • $\begingroup$ In my not-so-humble opinion, bias is not escapable. All you can really do is choose the right set of biases for the question you're asking. By framing a question to answer in the first place (A decision to make) you've already begun to model the world in a particular way. $\endgroup$ Jun 18, 2012 at 20:18

3 Answers 3


One possible strategy is to phrase decision-making problems as questions in a foreign language. There's evidence that this attenuates at least certain kinds of cognitive bias (making you more rational and consistent) by distancing the cognitive and affective baggage that comes with the problem. See the following:

Keysar, B., Hayakawa, S.L., & Sun, G.A. (2012). The Foreign-Language Effect: Thinking in a Foreign Tongue Reduces Decision Biases. Psychological Science, 23 (6), 661-668.


Jonathan Baron's book, "Thinking and Deciding", presents decision making, and most other thinking tasks, as a combination of searching and judgment. In most cases, expanding the search phase results in better thinking. In the case of decision making, searching further both for more alternatives before judging between them and for better information for judging between the alternatives.

It isn't specifically about debiasing, but expanding your search has significant debiasing effect.


There are many strategies which diminish bias in decision-making. That is actually the cornerstone of the field called "decision analysis".

Biases, anomalies, heuristics, or any other kind of non-rational behavioral errors that people usually make in their usual everyday decisions is the realm of descriptive (or behavioral) decision-making (Von Winterfeldt and Edwards, 1986).

Normative decision-making studies how decisions should be made if people were completely rational and did not have any limitations or random inconsistencies on their perceptions, reasoning, or acts.

Instead, decision analysis studies how decisions should and could be made better, in practice, by real people. In this sense, it is a prescriptive approach. It fills the gap between descriptive and normative decision theories, drawing from behavioral decision theory research to develop effective decision analysis techniques (e.g. probability, and value elicitation protocols) that conform to normative decision-making (Raiffa et al., 2003; Clemen, 2008; Russo and Schoemaker, 1989).

Von Winterfeldt D, Edwards W (1986) Decision Analysis and Behavioural Research. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

Raiffa H, Richardson J, Metcalfe D (2003) Negotiation Analysis: The Science and Art of Collaborative Decision. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA

Clemen RT (2008) Improving and measuring the effectiveness of decision analysis: Linking decision analysis and behavioral decision research. In T Kugler, JC Smith, T Connolly, Y-J. Son (eds.) Decision Modeling and Behavior in Complex and Uncertain Environments, Springer, New York: 3-31

Russo JE, Schoemaker PJH (1989) Decision Traps: The Ten Barriers to Brilliant Decision-Making and How to Overcome Them. Doubleday, New York


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