The Bias Blind Spot

From previous post’s we have learnt how people can become fixed on a given value by an anchor (so maybe pay to much for those Bali clothes due to the high starting price), be influenced by easily available memories (So people might feel infidelity is at all time high with all the current Barnaby Joyce coverage)  and understand that evidence against peoples beliefs can actually strengthen that belief (“Driverless cars might be safe but I still think that they will cause more accidents”).  So, we are getting pretty good at picking out bias in our thinking…………. not really,  more just that we are getting better at seeing bias in everyone else’s thinking.

Enter the Bias Blind Spot which is the conviction that one’s own judgments are less susceptible to bias than the judgments of others (Pronin et al. 2002 & 2004). In a literature review by Ehrlinger et al (2004) it was found that individuals judgements are often clouded by several cognitive and motivational biases (Gilovich, 1991; Kunda, 1990; Nisbett & Ross, 1980). Individuals consistently rate themselves above average across a variety of domains (Alicke et al 1995; Dunning, Meyerowitz, & Holzberg, 1989), take credit for their successes but explain away their failures (Miller & Ross, 1975; Whitley & Frieze, 1985), assume they are more likely than their peers to experience the good things in life and avoid the bad (Weinstein, 1980), and tend to detect more support for their favoured beliefs than is objectively warranted (Lord, Ross, & Lepper, 1979).

The overwhelming positive view that we like to perceive ourselves in is obviously helpful when it comes to motivation and problem solving but it does leave us with a blind spot. This blind spot leads us to underestimate the impact bias has on our judgements. In part because we see bias as a negative in that it clouds our thinking, also that we easily attribute bias to other people’s action in the absence of introspection and not understanding the other persons inner thoughts and motivations. Lastly as we perceive ourselves to be introspective we are easily able to reason away bias in our judgement and thinking.

This failure to often practice introspection and empathy leads to conflict as we start to see other people’s judgements as inferior and ours to be superior. This black and white view point then turns into defensiveness and criticism which too often breaks down communications in relationships. We need to be mindful of our own susceptibility to be influenced by bias in our judgements just like everyone else. Therefore, when it comes to judging other people’s decisions perhaps we should be more critical of our own.  



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Dunning, D., Meyerowitz, J. A., & Holzberg, A. D. (1989). Ambiguity and self-evaluation: The role of idiosyncratic trait definitions in self-serving assessments of ability. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1082-1090.

Ehrlinger, J. Gilovich, T. & Ross, L. (2004). Peering Into the Bias Blind Spot: People’s Assessments of Bias in Themselves and Others. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin:

 Epley, N., & Dunning, D. (2000). Feeling “holier than thou”: Are self-serving assessments produced by errors in self- or social prediction? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 861-875.

Gilovich, T. (1991). How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life. New York: Free Press.

Kruger, J., & Gilovich, T. (1999). “Naive cynicism” in everyday theories of responsibility assessment: On biased assumptions of bias. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 743-753

Kunda, Z. (1990). The case for motivated reasoning. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 480-498

Lord, C. G., Ross, L., & Lepper, M. R., (1979). Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: The effects of prior theories on subsequently considered evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 2098-2109.

Miller, D. T., & Ross, M. (1975). Self-serving biases in the attribution of causality: Fact or fiction? Psychological Bulletin, 82, 213-225

Nisbett, R. E., & Ross, L. (1980). Human inference: Strategies and shortcomings of social judgment. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Pronin, E., Gilovich, T., & Ross, L. (2004). Objectivity in the eye of the beholder: Divergent perceptions of bias in self versus others. Psychological Review, 111, 781-799.

Pronin, E., Lin, D. Y., & Ross, L. (2002). The bias blind spot: Perceptions of bias in self versus others. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 369-381.

Ross, L., & Ward, A. (1996). Naïve realism in everyday life: Implications for social conflict and misunderstanding. In T. Brown, E. Reed, & E. Turiel (Eds.), Values and knowledge (pp. 103-135). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum

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Whitley, B. E., & Frieze, I. H. (1985). Children’s causal attributions for success and failure in achievement settings: A meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 77, 608-616