WYSIATI – What You See Is All There Is

The principle of WYSIATI highlights humanity’s propensity to draw conclusions from visible data while neglecting what might be omitted. Originally identified by Daniel Kahneman, this cognitive bias has significant ramifications across various fields, from politics to finance.


  • Coined by psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman in his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”.
  • Refers to a cognitive bias where individuals jump to conclusions based on limited information available to them, without considering what they might not know.

Two Systems of Thought

  • System 1: Fast, intuitive, automatic, and immediate. This system is prone to the WYSIATI bias.
  • System 2: Slow, deliberate, and logical. Requires more cognitive effort.


  • Overconfidence: Individuals may believe they have a full understanding based on limited data.
  • Ignorance of Unknowns: Absence of evidence isn’t taken as evidence of absence.
  • Quick Judgments: Decisions can be made without comprehensive analysis.

Real-World Examples

  • Media Consumption: A news article might give an impression of a complete story, but there may be missing details or perspectives.
  • First Impressions: Forming an opinion of someone based on a brief interaction without considering possible underlying complexities.

Cognitive Origin

  • Evolutionarily, quick decision-making processes had survival advantages.
  • Information gathering and processing was often a luxury in quick, life-or-death situations.

Associated Biases & Heuristics

  • Availability Heuristic: People judge the importance or frequency of something based on how readily it comes to mind.
  • Confirmation Bias: A tendency to seek, interpret, and remember information that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs.

Counteracting WYSIATI

  • Being aware of the bias is the first step.
  • Adopt a mindset that actively seeks out missing information.
  • Cultivate habits of deliberative thinking (engaging System 2).

Global Perspective

  • Cultural Implications: WYSIATI can play a role in stereotyping or cultural misunderstandings.
  • Economics & Finance: Investors may make decisions based on current trends, overlooking potential long-term implications or missing data.
  • Politics: Policymakers might act on immediate, visible issues without considering underlying or long-term consequences.

Further Reading

  • “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman
  • Various cognitive psychology research on heuristics and biases.