Action Bias

Image created with Midjourney. Image prompt:
Image created with Midjourney. Image prompt: Visualize a 2D, minimalistic illustration of a goalkeeper mid-jump towards the right side of the goal, while a football is headed straight towards the center of the net. On the other side of the scene, illustrate a doctor with a stopwatch, indicating the action of 'just waiting'. Use cool, subdued colors to create a calm, thoughtful atmosphere

In the realm of decision-making, "action bias" refers to the tendency to favor action over inaction, even when it might not be the optimal choice. This behavioral bias can be observed in various contexts, from a goalkeeper deciding which way to dive during a penalty kick to a doctor preferring intervention over 'watchful waiting'. While at first glance, this might seem like a sports or healthcare phenomenon, the principle of action bias can also provide valuable insights in the world of digital software creation.

Real-World Application of Action Bias

Soccer Goalkeepers

In penalty kicks, soccer goalkeepers often dive to the left or right, even though about a third of the time the ball is shot straight. It feels less embarrassing to miss the ball by diving in the wrong direction than to miss it while standing still. This is a classic example of action bias—taking action (diving) seems better than inaction (standing still), even if the action is misguided.

Medical Decisions

In the medical field, doctors often prefer to 'do something' rather than adopt a 'wait and see' approach, even when the latter might be the best course of action. This demonstrates action bias, where the impulse to intervene can override the potential benefits of inaction.

Stock Trading

In stock trading, investors frequently buy and sell stocks in the pursuit of profit, even when holding onto their investments would yield better results. This action bias can lead to excessive trading, often to the detriment of the investor's portfolio.

Action Bias in Digital Software Creation

The concept of action bias plays an interesting role in digital software creation. It can be both a boon and a potential pitfall, depending on the context:

Quick Iterations

Software development, particularly in agile methodologies, often favors quick action and rapid iterations. Action bias can be beneficial in this context, encouraging developers to try out different solutions, learn from their mistakes, and continuously improve the product.

Premature Optimization

On the other hand, action bias can lead to premature optimization. Developers might rush to solve a perceived problem without fully understanding its impact, leading to unnecessary changes that complicate the codebase and waste development resources.

User Experience

Action bias can also influence how users interact with software. Designing software that encourages meaningful actions can lead to a more engaging user experience.

Problem Solving

Sometimes, the best course of action when faced with a complex problem is to take a step back, gather more information, and carefully consider the possible solutions. In this scenario, resisting action bias can lead to more effective problem-solving.


In conclusion, understanding action bias can help software developers strike the right balance between action and inaction. While action is often necessary for progress, thoughtful inaction can sometimes lead to better outcomes. By recognizing the role of action bias in decision-making, developers can make more informed choices that enhance the quality and effectiveness of their digital products.