Top Ten Behavioral Biases in Project Management: An Overview

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Behavioral science has witnessed an explosion in the number of biases identified by behavioral scientists, to more than 200 at present. This article identifies the 10 most important behavioral biases for project management. First, we argue it is a mistake to equate behavioral bias with cognitive bias, as is common. Cognitive bias is half the story; political bias the other half. Second, we list the top 10 behavioral biases in project management: (1) strategic misrepresentation, (2) optimism bias, (3) uniqueness bias, (4) the planning fallacy, (5) overconfidence bias, (6) hindsight bias, (7) availability bias, (8) the base rate fallacy, (9) anchoring, and (10) escalation of commitment. Each bias is defined, and its impacts on project management are explained, with examples. Third, base rate neglect is identified as a primary reason that projects underperform. This is supported by presentation of the most comprehensive set of base rates that exist in project management scholarship, from 2,062 projects. Finally, recent findings of power law outcomes in project performance are identified as a possible first stage in discovering a general theory of project management, with more fundamental and more scientific explanations of project outcomes than found in conventional theory.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProject Management Journal
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)531-546
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Behavioral Economics
  • Project Management
  • Cognitive Bias
  • Political Bias
  • Strategic Misrepresentation
  • Optimism Bias
  • Uniqueness Bias
  • Planning Fallacy
  • Overconfidence Bias
  • Hindsight Bias
  • Availability Bias
  • Base-rate Fallacy
  • Anchoring
  • Escalati


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