Restraint Bias

What is restraint bias?

The restraint bias refers to our tendency to overestimate the level of control we have over our impulsive behaviors. These urges typically come from “visceral impulses” such as hunger, drug cravings, fatigue, or sexual arousal.

Where this bias occurs

Imagine you’re a university student approaching the end of your fall semester. You have finished all your classes, but have multiple papers and exams on the horizon. There’s not much time until your deadlines, but you create a schedule to make sure your cramming is regimented.

In your study schedule, you plan for consecutive late nights in the library to put yourself in good standings for your exams. You figure that you will be a little tired, but you’re a seasoned student and no stranger to working through exhaustion.

However, one afternoon a few days into your study schedule, you feel yourself losing steam. You feel tired and want nothing more than to be napping on your couch at home. Eventually, you decide to leave the library and leave your work for another day.

This is an example of the restraint bias. You overestimated your control over your mental and physical urges to relax, and you underestimated the influence of fatigue. This thought process enabled you to create a poor study plan, which left you underprepared for your exams.

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