Look at the quality of your thoughts.

An article on IFLS got me thinking about how our cognitive biases hold us back, whether personally or as designers/artists. I thought I would try to write down some examples of each type of bias, to illustrate some of the challenges you might meet as a corsetmaker. Challenges which you can’t attribute to external factors.


  1. Anchoring bias. Eg: when your guide prices are for the absolute basics and potential customers get “stuck” at that price-point and can’t understand why their couture version which takes 5 times as long should cost more… The first price is the one that sticks and sets the tone. 

  2. Availability heuristic. The way in which we rely on anecdotal information rather than broader facts. Eg: “my friend’s experience of purchasing a bespoke garment was X, therefore that’s how it always is.”

  3. Bandwagon effect. Eg: online communities convincing themselves that there is one right way to do something and then getting stuck within those rules. 

  4. Blind-spot bias. Eg: criticising X for their cognitive bias whilst failing to recognise that you may have the same bias structure just in a different direction.

  5. Choice-supportive bias. I reckon this is sometimes a good thing. Every choice has flaws, might as well create a positive dialogue in your own mind around the choice you have made. Eg: if I’d been more aware of the potential challenges of self-employment I might not have bothered, and would have missed out on years of stimulating work. Sometimes it’s better not to know how hard a thing is. 

  6. Clustering illusion. Seeing patterns in random events. Can’t think of a corsetry example for this. Though perhaps if you saw X have an awful customer (eg: nasty person) and then immediately saw Y have a “problem” customer (eg: delayed timeline due to unavoidable life stuff), you might begin thinking that all corsetry customers are a challenge. But the two things are totally unrelated and 99% of corsetry customers are a joy. 

  7. Confirmation bias. Eg: you’ve decided that 4mm spiral steel is flimsy and useless so you tear apart one example of a corset that illustrates this and ignore the 10 others that challenge it. Information which supports your view is shared, information which challenges it is ignored. 

  8. Conservatism bias. Sticking to an old belief despite new information coming to light. Eg: insisting for years that the industry is over-saturated despite the fact that a hundred new corsetry brands have emerged and are each succeeding in their own way, illustrating that there is space for them.

  9. Information bias. Dawdling on choices by looking for ever more information. Then realising, retrospectively, that you could have done just as good a job without all that dawdling. I’m currently doing this in thinking about my personal life and the future of my business. 

  10. Ostrich effect. Eg: you have a consistently recurring issue in your work or business, but you ignore it. Focussing on the positives is great, but not if you’re ignoring something potentially harmful.

  11. Outcome bias. Eg: you had a large surprise bill to pay (perhaps a dead car, vet visit, etc.), hustled for sales and got it paid, huzzah! Happy outcome. But that doesn’t mean waiting until a crisis and then hustling is a great strategy in general. 

  12. Overconfidence. I meet very few people with this bias. But I suppose, there are plenty of craftspeople who stop progressing in their skill level due to a confidence in their work being already brilliant enough. 

  13. Placebo effect. I think this can even apply to purchases. You want a thing that will transform some aspect of your life or work, you buy it, and the self-validation you get from even just that ownership makes you feel transformed. 

  14. Pro-innovation bias. Eg: “my work would be transformed if only I had this piece of brand new and shiny kit.”

  15. Recency. Ignoring history. Eg: you’ve had a run of 30 great customers. But don’t forget the lessons learned from the difficult one before that… Or vice versa. 

  16. Salience. Focusing on the most obvious or extreme aspects of something. Eg: “I want to go into business, but I’ll probably get awful customers like corsetmaker X did, lose all my money, have the bailiffs round, and suffer a nervous breakdown.” Chances are nothing that dramatic will happen.

  17. Selective perception. Being more open to seeing evidence for something you already believe. Eg: “I dislike corsetmaker X’s approach/pricing/style and therefore I notice when things go wrong and ignore the 100 times things go right.”

  18. Stereotyping. Eg: if you thought that all corset customers have a max spend of £60 and want waist-training corsets, you would fail to recognise the hundred other niches/possibilities within the corsetry market.

  19. Survivorship bias. Eg: history is written by the victors, so you aren’t aware of those who’ve “failed” in your chosen industry. Possibly not a bad thing, unless being educated on the “failures” teaches you something. Quotation marks because I think the way we talk about success and failure is highly flawed and far too simplistic. 

  20. Zero-risk bias. Eg: seeking out certainty at all costs, even if it means missing opportunities along the way. I feel like this can tie in with number 9 (information bias) quite often. “I’ll try it once I have all the information and am better prepared!” No, sometimes you just need to crack on and figure it out as you go. Again, this one applies to me right now, in some ways. 


Habits and biases keep us safe. They keep us functioning without becoming overwhelmed. But they also create a lot of the reality we experience. We have to avoid lazy thinking. Truisms and clichés have their dangers. Holding too strongly to your beliefs has its dangers. Your assumptions may not be correct. Especially those you hold about yourself and your abilities. If you have decisions to make, consider the quality of your thoughts. Are you being reasonable (as reasonable as an emotional being can be) or are you falling back on your biases and letting them dictate your fate? 

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