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Which Cognitive Biases can Exacerbate our Workload?

  • Simon A. Moss (a1), Samuel G. Wilson (a2) and J. Mark Davis (a1)


Despite the advent of technologies that enhance productivity, the workload of many individuals, including psychologists, remains onerous, provoking burnout and similar complications. Although the circumstances that mitigate or exacerbate the effects of workload have been studied extensively, the antecedents of these demands have not been established definitively. Without this insight, managers cannot be sure of which practices are likely to contain the workload of individuals. To resolve this shortfall, we first pose the possibility that many cognitive biases, heuristics, and illusions may, at least partly, explain elevated levels of workload. Specifically, we demonstrate that 14 established biases, such as the restraint bias and IKEA effect, are likely to prolong work hours and increase the demands on individuals. For example, according to research on the restraint bias, individuals tend to inflate their capacity to inhibit their temptations and, therefore, may overestimate their ability to work extensive hours. Second, we show that all these biases can be divided into four constellations—self-enhancement, stable worldviews, need for closure, and just world—each of which tends to dissipate whenever people experience a sense of meaning in their lives. These observations, therefore, imply that attempts to foster meaning may contain the workload of workers.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Dr Simon A Moss, PhD, School of Psychological and Clinical Sciences, Charles Darwin University, Ellengowan Dr, Casuarina, NT 0810, Australia. Email:


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Which Cognitive Biases can Exacerbate our Workload?

  • Simon A. Moss (a1), Samuel G. Wilson (a2) and J. Mark Davis (a1)


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