Thinking biases in diving


A thinking bias, or cognitive bias, can have an affect on our thinking and actions.

There are a range of factors that can cause these biases, from social pressures to your own emotions and motivations.

It is important to be aware of these in diving, and in all sports, as British Diving and English Institute of Sport (EIS) Sports Psychologist Laura Cosgrove explains.

What is a cognitive bias?

It has been proven that we tend to make ‘mental mistakes’ also known as cognitive biases, and this can have an impact on both our thinking and our actions. A cognitive bias is an error in thinking that happens when we are processing and interpreting information. It can often occur when your brain tries to simplify information.

Below are some cognitive biases and how they relate to the world of diving.

Confirmation Bias

Focusing on details that confirm your existing beliefs and ignoring details that contradict it. For example, still believing you can’t do reverse when you only got one of five attempts wrong.

Recency Effect

The tendency to weigh the latest information more heavily than older information. For example, only remembering your last coaching comment.


Adjusting our behaviour to match those around, for better or worse. For example, arriving to training ten minutes early or being five minutes late because ‘everyone is’.

Minimising and maximising

The importance of significant events, such as doing a great dive, are minimised while mistakes are maximised and focused on.

Optimism Bias

The tendency to overestimate your chances of success in comparison to others. This may then reduce your work ethic and concentration.

Goal Gradient Effect

Working harder to achieve your goals only when they are in sight, which explains the common ‘pre-season slump’ when competitions seem so far away.

Laura has produced a range of resources including tips to help divers stay motivated and how to control the controllables.