I love Wikipedia, and use it as my standard reference work. Firefox users, did you know that you can type “wp [thing]” in your address bar (not the search bar), and it will pull up a Wikipedia article on your search term? Discovering this little gem was the highlight of my day.
The other day, I stumbled across Wikipedia’s List of cognitive biases page. It’s informative, entertaining, and humbling, all at the same time – what more could you ask from your web browsing experience? And look at how many of these apply directly to The Knitting Experience!
Bandwagon effect – the tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same.
This explains why people keep buying yarn (which is crap, yet very expensive) from big box craft stores. “Everyone else obviously buys this yarn, so it must be acceptable.”
Contrast effect – the enhancement or diminishment of a weight or other measurement when compared with recently observed contrasting object.
I like knitting hats! No, wait, the Irish Hiking Scarf! No, wait, I want a Gothic Leaf Stole! No, wait – dishcloths!
Disconfirmation bias – the tendency for people to extend critical scrutiny to information which contradicts their prior beliefs and accept uncritically information that is congruent with their prior beliefs.
“Your favorite knitting technique is inferior to the way I’ve always done it.”
Endowment effect – the tendency for people to value something more as soon as they own it.
Have you seen my dishcloth? It is the best dishcloth of all time!
Focusing effect – prediction bias occurring when people place too much importance on one aspect of an event; causes error in accurately predicting the utility of a future outcome.
“Acid green fun fur is cool! I will use it to knit a sweater for my dad!” The focusing effect explains the problem with 95% of patterns produced by yarn companies.
Hyperbolic discounting – the tendency for people to have a stronger preference for more immediate payoffs relative to later payoffs, the closer to the present both payoffs are.
This is why, in the time it’s taken Feral Knitter to design, knit, and complete Sashiko, I have made about 300,000 crap hats and dishcloths.
Illusion of control – the tendency for human beings to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes which they clearly cannot.
Thus my belief expressed above, that I could have knit a Sashiko jacket, but chose not to.
Impact bias – the tendency for people to overestimate the length or the intensity of the impact of future feeling states.
“When I finish this sweater, I will love it forever, and wear it every day!”
Loss aversion – the tendency for people to strongly prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains
Why I will never again drop stitches to fix a problem. Sure, I might fix the problem – but also I could ruin the entire back of the sweater like last time.
Neglect of Probability – the tendency to completely disregard probability when making a decision under uncertainty.
This is responsible for every knitter that skips making a swatch before starting a project in an unfamiliar yarn.
Mere exposure effect – the tendency for people to express undue liking for things merely because they are familiar with them.
“I like Lion Brand yarn.”
Planning fallacy – the tendency to underestimate task-completion times.
No explanation needed.
Post-purchase rationalization – the tendency to persuade oneself through rational argument that a purchase was good value.
Also, no explanation needed.
Pseudocertainty effect – the tendency to make risk-averse choices if the expected outcome is positive, but make risk-seeking choices to avoid negative outcomes.
Also why I won’t drop back stitches in the future. 100% chance that the error will stay if I don’t drop the stitches to fix it. If I do drop back the stitches, there’s a 70% chance that it will be fixed – and a 30% chance that the entire thing will be ruined. Mmm, yeah, we’ll just not drop back the stitches, eh?
Rosy retrospection – the tendency to rate past events more positively than they had actually rated them when the event occurred.
I don’t think my first attempt at a shawl was that bad a disaster, really. I only spent a few hours working on it, and it’s good practice for the next time I try one out. But if I think carefully, I do remember that at the time, it seemed like the end of the freakin’ world.
Selective perception – the tendency for expectations to affect perception.
I think this dishcloth will be pretty, and therefore I will find it so. (The opposite is also often true.)
Status quo bias – the tendency for people to like things to stay relatively the same.
Who’s up for knitting more dishcloths?
Von Restorff effect – the tendency for an item that “stands out like a sore thumb” to be more likely to be remembered than other items.
I browsed through an entire copy of Knitting Nature – which is not a small book – but the only thing I really remember is the picture of the model clinging to a rock face above the rising tide, while wearing six-inch heels.
Projection bias – the tendency to unconsciously assume that others share the same or similar thoughts, beliefs, values, or positions.
Wait… you don’t think my dishcloths are the coolest thing anyone has ever knitted? Sulk.