Are You Biased?

Most of us think that we’re fair when it comes to judging other people, but actually there is a lot of research to show that we all exhibit a lot of subconscious bias!

Fundamental Attribution Error

This is when we are kinder to ourselves than others. For example, if we’re rushing to get to a meeting and we’re late, we’ll have all sorts of reasons as to why. They will be external reasons such as ‘the bus was late’, ‘I got stuck behind a slow driver’, etc.

But if we’re sitting in a meeting waiting for someone to show up who is late, our thoughts are likely to attribute an internal reason to them, i.e. the fact that they are hopeless timekeepers. We don’t give them the benfit of a reason outside of their control.

Confirmation Bias

Once we have mentally tagged someone as ‘always late’ we tend to see only the evidence that supports that view. We will always notice every time they are late and expect them to be late. Each time we are right we feel supported in our belief and it strengthens it. We were right – that person is always late!  Amazingly, we are able to conveniently ignore the almost equal number of times thay are punctual because that doesn’t fit  our bias about this person!

I see this often when I am working in organisations undergoing change. Once a certain theory has taken hold it is very hard to dislodge it, despite evidence to the contrary.

Suspend Your Bias

Next time you find yourself passing a negative comment about someone, whether out loud or silently, stop for a second and consider whether the evidence actually fits your pronouncement. It might help you to manage any anger or frustration you feel and give you a new take on someone!


Posted on April 16th, 2009 by

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