You probably realize that there are subtle cognitive and motivational biases that influence your perceptions and decisions. However, if you are like most people, you will also tend to notice these prejudices more in other people than in yourself. This tendency to recognize cognitive biases in others and not yet see how bias influences their own thinking is known as blind spot bias . Simply put, blind spot bias is a cognitive blind spot that prevents you from seeing your own prejudices. Like a blind spot in a car, that blind spot of prejudice can prevent us from seeing things that can play a critical role in the decisions we make.
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- Blind spots
- Blind spot bias is more common than you think
- What causes blind spot bias?
- Blind spot bias affects your decisions and behaviors
While you’re driving down the road, you look over your shoulder and check the rearview mirror. Seeing nothing in the other lane, you start to change lanes. When you’re making the move, another car suddenly blows its horn and you immediately realize that there was actually another vehicle on that track – it was just in your blind spot. A blind spot is simply something that you constantly ignore, often unintentionally . Unable to see the other car, you did a maneuver that could easily have ended in a traffic accident.
The polarization blind spot is similar, as it affects the choices you make, even if you can’t see it. As you weigh a decision, many factors play a role in your thoughts, but it is often the unknown factors that can affect these choices in ways that we may not have considered. This blind spot for your own prejudices can lead to defective or distorted thinking, which can lead to poor decision making . Sometimes the consequences of this flawed reasoning can be relatively small, but in other situations, they can lead to unfortunate results.
Blind spot of bias is more common than you think
Interestingly, people often believe that they are less likely to be biased than their peers. According to a study published in the journal Management Science , almost all people suffer from blind spot bias . Of the 661 participants, only one person stated that he was more biased than the average person. Most of the study participants, approximately 85%, actually believed that they were less prejudiced, regardless of whether or not they made an impartial decision.
“ People seem to have no idea how biased they are . Whether you’re a good decision maker or a bad one, everyone thinks they’re less biased than their colleagues, ”explained Carey Morewedge, one of the study’s authors and an associate professor of marketing at Boston University. “This susceptibility to the blind spot of bias seems to be widespread and is not related to people’s intelligence, self-esteem and real ability to make impartial judgments and decisions.”
What causes blind spot bias?
So, what causes blind spot bias? The desire to see oneself positively as a rational and logical thinker plays a role. People realize that being biased is not a desirable quality, so they tend to see their own decisions as the result of pure logic and reason.
The reality is that many of the mental processes that go into decision making are unconscious, so people tend to be unaware of how heuristics, prejudices and other mental shortcuts affect the choices they make. Even when people become aware of some of their own prejudices, they often find it difficult to control or change them.
Blind spot bias affects your decisions and behaviors
The researchers who conducted the study mentioned earlier also suggest that blind spot bias can have a significant effect on behavior.
“When doctors receive gifts from pharmaceutical companies, they can claim that the gifts do not affect their decisions about which medicine to prescribe because they have no memory of the gifts that influence their prescriptions. However, if you ask whether a gift can unconsciously influence other doctors’ decisions, most will agree that other doctors are unconsciously influenced by those present, while still believing that their own decisions are not. This disparity is the blind spot of prejudice and occurs for everyone, for many different types of judgments and decisions, ” explained Erin McCormick, one of the study’s authors.
Political donations can be another example of how the blind spot bias operates. Politicians often accuse other candidates of being influenced by donations from lobbies, but insist that their own votes on certain issues are not influenced by who donates or does not donate to their campaigns.
The researchers conducted experiments that involved validating a blind spot bias assessment tool that they developed and to see if differences in blind spot bias were associated with factors such as decision skills, IQ and self-esteem. Additional experiments also look at how blind spot bias relates to social comparisons that people make, how people deal with other people’s advice, and how receptive to training designed to reduce bias.
What they found was that people who tend to have higher levels of blind spot bias are also :
- Less likely to take advice from others, be they peers or experts
- Less likely to learn from training that would reduce bias and help them make better decisions
Essentially, many people who are highly prejudiced do not just believe that they are less prejudiced than their peers; they are also more likely to ignore expert input and more likely to resist efforts to reduce their prejudices.
These findings may be particularly relevant today, as people fight conspiracy political theories fueled by biased thinking. Research suggests that not only do many people hold such beliefs blind to their own prejudices – they are also not receptive to information that can correct their faulty thinking.