We all have biases. (Even though we don’t think we do.)
Not me you might be (still) thinking. (Hint: that’s a type of bias!) Or you might be saying to yourself, so what, no big deal.
Bias has a huge effect on how we think, how we act, and how we move through the world.
And not only that, we tend to be way kinder and forgiving to ourselves than to others. We’re biased anytime we look at the world outside our own noggin.
“Psychologist Emily Pronin has found we judge ourselves very differently from the way we judge others. This is because we use different yardsticks while doing those two things. We evaluate others based on their behavior, but we evaluate our own actions using introspection, and it turns out introspection is not a useful guide to understanding our own minds.” (Hidden Brain podcast).
Talk about bias! Beyond how we judge ourselves differently from others, there are a lot more types of bias.
Here are three types of biases you for sure have. We all do. And not to worry, I’ll give you three ways to kick them to the curb).
Confirmation bias is “where we go looking for information that supports our pre-existing views” (Choicology podcast with Katy Milkman and Adam Grant). It’s like our brain turns into a sieve, and we ditch all the things that go against what we believe, and the things that agree with our beliefs are the only ones that stick.
Example: a neighbour who thinks dogs are inherently dangerous sees a vicious dog attack an innocent child. Another neighbour who loves dogs sees the dog defending itself against a menacing child. Neither eyewitness account is reliable due to confirmation bias (Your Dictionary).
Kick confirmation bias to the curb: Adam Grant says, “rather than treat our beliefs or opinions as truths, Adam encourages us to treat them instead as hunches. Hunches can be tested as scientists test their hypotheses. Taking this scientific approach to difficult problems often yields better results in business, politics, and life.”
Blind spot bias is “a situation where you can see something all around you except in one place.
Example: “Doctors will say, ‘I’m not influenced by gifts [from pharmaceutical companies], but other doctors are.’ It’s a perfect example of a conflict of interest not being recognized in self but seen in others. aka a blind spot (Hidden Brain podcast).
Kick blind spot bias to the curb: “Develop a curious (growth) mindset. Curiosity enables us to look at the world in wonder, from a place of genuinely wanting to learn without necessarily making a judgment. Opening the floodgates of one’s mind to new perspectives, simply by asking questions, is a simple and powerful tool that can result in new neural pathways being created, which is the bedrock of new habit formation, if consistently undertaken” (Arthi Rabikrisson, Forbes).
Halo effect bias
The halo effect bias was first discovered by the American psychologist Edward Thorndike in 1920. In a study that considered how bosses ranked their employees in the areas of intelligence, technical skill, and reliability, Thorndike found that the bosses tended to colour their judgments of employees’ skill by their general feelings about the employees. In other words, the bosses based their technical assessments of employees on whether the employees seemed like good or bad people. Alongside other examples, Thorndike was able to conclude that people are unable to separate general assessments of attractiveness from numerous other characteristics. As a result, an error of judgment emerges that leads people to make false assessments about other people and things. (source).
Example: You see someone who’s very beautiful, and you assume this person must also be very intelligent.
In an intriguing sidenote, the opposite of the halo effect is the horn effect, where if someone is unattractive, for example, you can assume other qualities about them such as dishonesty, not being smart, etc. (source).
Kick the halo effect to the curb: Use my gray thinking technique. Catch yourself when you’re guilty of binary thinking e.g. black or white, all good or all bad, etc., and shift your perspective. Move up and down the continuum instead of anchoring your thinking on either of the extreme ends.
Going forward, make some space in that beautiful brain of yours, to watch for when you are subjecting yourself to confirmation bias, blind-spot bias, or the halo effect. Then nab your scientific thinking by examining your thoughts as hunches instead of facts. And practicing gray thinking (not living at either end of extreme black/white, good/bad, thinking) and harnessing a curious/growth mindset. We’ll all be better for it.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead
- Check out this amazing, heart-warming, over-the-top creative video for just a few examples of real-life biases.
- Identifying and adjusting your biases takes hard work and concentration – like this adorable dog listening uber carefully to its human.
P.S. I just launched the online version of my Life Lense® online assessment – which clients from all over the world have benefited from, including many UN agencies. Check it out for outta sight insight!