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Posts Tagged ‘Bias’

I’m Not Biased… You Are!

November 26th, 2019 3 comments

Us vs. Them

Think about the last time you immediately doubted someone’s actions or statements. Maybe you thought they were only doing it for their own self-interest. Perhaps they stated a political opinion that opposes your own beliefs, or they agreed to complete a survey but only to be compensated with money, at least that’s why you think they did it. Let’s say you and a fellow classmate were talking about whether the new $200 million Colby College athletic complex is reasonable. You say no! The college could spend that money on so many other more beneficial things. However, your classmate says they are all for the new athletic center. You know they’re part of an athletic team so you think to yourself, “Yeah you’re in favor of it because you’re on a team and it would benefit you.” But did you actually take time to think about that person’s reasoning or did you just assume that they were biased and believe that you were the one being objective in the situation? We all may not be aware of it, but we usually expect others to have more personal bias and believe that we are able to judge situations objectively even though that may not be the case, and this is called naïve cynicism. Although this bias may seem really similar to naïve realism, they have some differences. The cognitive bias of naïve realism is the belief that a person can view the world objectively, and so can all the other people who agree with them and are “reasonable”, in their opinion. Naïve realism states that people believe everyone else who disagrees with them can’t help being subjective because they are all biased. Both of these biases are also clearly related to the bias blind spot, which is a phenomenon in which we are able to recognize how other people’s judgments are affected by their biases but fail to see those effects in ourselves. Even though we may be educated on these cognitive biases, we remain susceptible to them and are unable to recognize our personal biases.

Naïve cynicism is a cognitive bias that helps explain why humans usually notice other people’s errors more easily than we notice them in ourselves. The term was first coined by Kruger and Gilovich (1999), the first researchers to study this phenomenon experimentally. They performed various studies that all aimed at examining how individuals have cynical expectations regarding how others take responsibility. In one of the studies, pairs of participants played a video game together and then assessed how responsibility for the game outcome was divided between them. They reported their own responsibility for different elements of the game and also how they predicted the other player would divide it. The participants tended to believe that their teammate would take more accountability for elements of the game that contributed to winning over unwanted outcomes of the games such as “missed shots” or “lives lost”. It turns out that people expect others to take more responsibility for themselves in a selfish way, even though that may not be the reality (Kruger & Gilovich, 1999). This expectation that others will egotistically make judgments is a result of naïve cynicism. But, cognitively, how is this phenomenon explained?

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If You’re Reading This You’re Still Biased

November 26th, 2019 2 comments

But you might not be by the time you finish reading this blog post. As you probably know just from the existence of this blog, there has been a lot of talk lately about how biases affect us, and how we can educate ourselves to mitigate the effects of them. Across the internet, you can find countless articles about how to avoid biases in the workplaceclassrooms, job interviews, politics, and the mountains of information on biases continues to rise as more research is published and more psychology students write blog posts about them. Without a doubt, efforts to educate ourselves on biases is more than warranted given the effects they can have on us. The other race effect, for example, makes people less likely to remember faces belonging to people of a different race, and can have serious consequences when using eyewitness testimony to identify suspects of a crime. Further, the illusory truth effect causes us to view information that has been widely circulated and repeated as more truthful, and likely had a major influence when the rate of MMR vaccines to plummet when news outlets spewed out false information about a link between vaccines and autism. And if you want to know about other biases and how they affect behavior, just keep scrolling.

Before we can mitigate our biases, we need to acknowledge the bias blind spot and how it affects our cognitions.

Before you do that, though, I have some bad news.

As research has shown, becoming aware of biases doesn’t actually make you any less susceptible to them. This phenomenon is a result of the bias blind spot, which is our inclination towards identifying how biases affect others, while simultaneously maintaining an inability to recognize how our own judgement is affected by biases. In other words, educating ourselves about biases does not mean we can use this knowledge as a lens granting us unwavering vigilance for all the biases out there which may affect us. Read more…

Why we overlook our own shortcomings: a description of the Actor Observer Bias

November 26th, 2019 5 comments

Picture this: you are running late to drop your kids off at school in the morning and your children are having a fit in the back seat. On top of this, it is pouring rain outside. While you are driving down the highway, another car abruptly cuts you off as they are merging. As a result of your frustration, you begin to think of how they must be a rude person who is also a terrible driver. You assign internal (personality) traits to this person based on their action of cutting you off. You do not take into account the situational factors that were affecting their driving ability, like the fact that they were late for an important meeting, or they were driving their sick pet to the vet. You automatically attribute their actions to internal factors without even thinking about what else could have caused them to cut you off. A couple of minutes later, you, yourself accidentally cut off someone while trying to take the exit off the highway to your child’s school. Instead of reacting in the same way you did to the previous person who carried out the same action as you did and automatically telling yourself you are a bad driver and rude person, you inform yourself your action is a result of the fact that you are late for your child’s dropoff at school and you cannot see well as a result of the heavy rain. You tell yourself that on a normal day you would be much more careful. You do not think of yourself as a bad driver and rude person, as you thought of the other person, even though they did the same thing that you did. Why is it that we automatically assume others’ negative actions are a result of who they are as a person while being sympathetic and giving ourselves excuses? The actor-observer bias is an explanation for this confusing phenomenon. Read more…

Read this a FEW times… I Promise You’ll like it: The Mere Exposure Effect At Work

November 26th, 2019 2 comments

Sometimes when you hear a song for the first time you do not like it. The mere exposure effect may cause you to like it after hearing it so many times!

     When Party in the USA comes at a party, there is nothing stopping me. I know every word, every beat, and every guitar strum of that song. The energy in the room is wild, and I can confidently say that everyone is enjoying themselves, maybe not as much as I am, but nonetheless, enjoying 

themselves. I mean, what else can you expect from a 2009 banger that has been played on repeat since its debut on Disney Channel? But what happens when the kid on AUX switches to one of his soundcloud mystery raps that no one knows? I find myself enjoying the time much less, and everyone seemingly starts to mingle instead of dance. Why would Party in the USA have better success at a party over a new soundcloud rap? Cognitive psychology and the mere exposure effect can explain this.

     The mere exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon where people tend to prefer things that they are exposed to more often, compared to things that they have normal exposure to (Van Dessel, Mertens, Smith, & Houwer, 2019). People are more likely to be in favor of certain things that they have repeated exposure to and are more familiar with, even if they are unaware of it. This can explain why Party in the USA is such a hit at parties compared to the soundcloud rap.The mere exposure effect is used by artists, having their songs played on the radio repeatedly for people to develop positive feelings towards it, by brands in their constant advertising to make you want to buy a product more, and can even explain why you like the person that sits next to you in two classes every day over somebody else. Reflecting on this phenomenon, it is easy to see why this can be true. In general, we do not like to go to unfamiliar places, spend time with unfamiliar people, or put ourselves in unfamiliar situations. The comfort of familiarity drives us to do the same things over and over again, which eventually increases our liking if it. Investigating the mere exposure effect can tell us why familiarity is so important to how we judge something and make us realize how influential it can really be in our lives. So how does it really work?  Read more…

Who Needs a Crystal Ball to See the Future When Hindsight Bias Makes You Feel as if You Knew it All Along

November 25th, 2019 1 comment

“I just can’t stand it anymore!” For the last two weeks, this has been Katie’s way of announcing to her mother that she is home from school. Why is Katie so upset? I’ll give you a hint- it’s March of her senior year and she is waiting on something…

You’re probably thinking, oh college decisions! That must be what she is waiting for.

Good guess, but this is something much more nerve-wracking.

She’s waiting for her crush to ask her to the senior prom.

“What happened today, sweetheart?,” her mom asked. “Ok, so it was during lunch and I was standing in front of Drew in the sandwich line. I totally saw him checking me out, so I thought, ‘might as well flash a smile his way’, so I smiled AND said hi to him. And you know what he did back? NOTHING. He pretended like I didn’t exist! Can you believe him?!”

“Well, maybe he didn’t see you Katie. I wouldn’t worry about it; I’ve seen the way he looks at you. Drew clearly likes you.” Katie groaned. “Sorry mom, but I think you’re wrong on this one. I’m just going to accept the fact that he NEVER is going to ask me out.”

“Just wait it out Katie; you always try to control the situation, but sometimes matters like this need time to work themselves out.” Katie rolled her eyes. “No, I think I’m just destined to live alone my whole life with only cats to keep me company. The sooner I accept reality the better.”

*One Week Later, Katie’s on the phone while walking into the house*

“Brittany, I know, what can I say, it was only a matter of time before he was going to ask me. Have you noticed the way he looks at me? I’ve known he was going to ask me the whole time.”

Katie may feel as if she knew it all along but she’s not fooling us…

“Katie, is that you? Did I just hear you say Drew finally asked you to the prom? This is so exciting! I told you not to worry.”

“Brittany, give me a second my mom is talking to me. What do you mean, worry? I’ve known he was going to ask me all along.”

*Katie leaves the room*

“Knew it all along huh?” Katie’s mom picked up an advertisement addressed to Katie from the counter. “I guess she won’t be needing this cat poster of the month subscription anymore”.

Like Katie’s mom, you may be confused as to why Katie suddenly feels as if she knew Drew was going to ask her all along when it’s evident she didn’t.

One possible explanation is hindsight bias.

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Get Ready…You’re Next.

November 24th, 2019 2 comments

“When will I get to speak” – Instead of attending to Mr. Know-It-All, they wait in anticipation for their turn to speak next.

Imagine that you are in class and your teacher has split the class into multiple groups, assigning each group different chapters of your reading to summarize for the class. In your group, you collectively brainstorm with your other group members about chapter four and write down the main topics and themes that pop up throughout your discussion. When your teacher signals that it’s time for each group to share what they talked about, all your group members assign you to be the spokesperson since you have jotted down some general notes. “Yeah, sure. It’s no big deal,” you think to yourself. “It’s not a formal presentation or anything, I just have to summarize what we talked about.” The group’s spokesperson for chapter one goes first, followed by the group’s spokesperson for chapter two and then chapter three. As it nears your turn, you start to think about how to present a clear and concise summary to the class as your classmates have just done. All of a sudden, you’re up next, so you stand up and tell the class about the main topics your group discussed. When you sit back down, the group for chapter five begins to share, but you look back over your notes making sure you did not forget to include anything important. At the end of class, your teacher gives a mini quiz about the chapters the class just summarized, and you realize that you can’t really remember anything from the presentations on chapter three or five. What happened? You were subject to the next-in-line effect.

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Life was Never that Rosy, but Look Up

November 22nd, 2019 2 comments

If you’ve ever watched Disney’s Pixar movie Up (and if you haven’t, beware of spoilers), you might remember Carl and his late wife Ellie’s adventure book called ‘Stuff I’m Going to Do’. The movie shows Carl remembering happy memories as he flips through the book, such as when he and Ellie got married and when they went on a picnic. But where are the flashbacks of the time their house partially got destroyed by a fallen tree or when Ellie had an unfortunate miscarriage? Well, the obvious reason is because it’s a movie by Disney and Pixar, so it can’t be too sad for children watching. The less obvious reason is that Carl fell victim to rosy retrospection!

Scene of Carl Fredericksen reminiscing memories of his late wife Ellie from Up by Disney’s Pixar.

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Take off the rose-tinted glasses: Rosy retrospection and the fallibility of memory

April 26th, 2018 8 comments

If you’ve ever binge-watched The Office, you probably remember the moment in the series finale when Andy Bernard reflects on his days at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. Thinking back on his past – on the friends he made and the fun times he had – he says, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” Is he right? At the moment he said it, was Andy living in the “good old days?” Why will he be able to think back on that moment as if it were the “good old days” if he can’t see it right now? Five years from now, will we be looking back on 2018 like it was the “good old days?” Cognitive psychology has an answer: yes.

Allow me to explain: we often tend to remember and recollect past events in a more favorable light than when they actually occur. This is called rosy retrospection – have you ever heard of the idiom “to see through rose-tinted glasses?” It refers to the tendency to see something in a positive light, often better than it actually is. This memory bias applies to all of us – and it explains why we often recall the past much more fondly than the present. More generally, rosy retrospection represents one example of the way memory is not as accurate or reliable as we would like to believe. Memory is surprisingly fallible.
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The empathy gap: the cognitive scapegoat least likely to earn you brownie points in intimate relationships (or with HR)

April 22nd, 2018 No comments

I think you’d call that an objective overreaction (Marcinski, 2015)

Try to remember to the last time you had a fight with a romantic partner or friend, especially over a small misstep or misunderstanding. Were you angry at the time? Jealous? Hurt? If so, you probably said and did things you didn’t mean; perhaps you were intending to cause your partner the same pain you felt, or were simply lashing out impulsively, not caring to listen to their side of the story. Only your own feelings mattered.

Now think back to the aftermath, when you had resolved the issue and moved forward. Everything that happened in the heat of the argument might seem a bit silly to you now. Maybe your partner pointed out that you had overreacted; your emotions seemed perfectly valid then, but now, in a state of calm as you and your relationship are, you’re inclined to agree with them. There’s no way you acted like that; you had no reason to. You certainly won’t do so the next time you’re in an argument…right?

Unlike faucet taps, these states are rather mutually exclusive: no lukewarm middle ground here (http://image.wikifoundry.com/image/3/5ac715be43f996a35f99bf5976ec1348/GW350H215)

Wrong, says the empathy gap. Read more…