Blind Spot Bias

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We all know what a blind spot is, those two areas just off the back fender of our car. Properly adjusted side mirrors can narrow the blind spot, but in many automobiles, you just can’t eliminate it.

But weren’t not talking about cars here, we’re talking about us. We all have a blind spot bias. Quite simply put, we are able to recognize how bias influences the judgment of other, but we are unaware and unable to recognize our own bias.

Wait! We all have a blind spot bias?

Yes, all of us. In several studies, the question was asked: Are you more of less bias than others?

Only one person in every 600+ thought themselves more bias that the average person. Yet, 85% said they were less bias than others. Last time I looked, average meant 50% more bias and 50% less bias. To some degree, we all have a blind spot bias.

Because of this bias, we all tend to believe we know why we make decisions, and we do not attribute our actions to bias. Since we all do it, we must assume not a lot of damage is done via our blind spot bias. In a certain way, this is true.

Most of our day-to-day decisions, even our minute-to-minute daily actions are done unconsciously. We do it because we have always done it that way. What worked before, should work again. It is precisely in our unconscious actions that our biases act out.

But why do we think everyone else acts out of bias and we do not?

The answer is quite fascinating. To judge other’s bias, we observe them and see both their actions and their external reasoning. We can judge them because they are out there; able to be judged. On the other hand, we can’t get outside of our consciousness. We look inward to do any self-assessment, and it is precisely inward where our biases reside.

We are biased against observing our own bias. Hence, the blind spot bias, we all have.

Well, if we all do it, and the world seems to keep on spinning, what’s the problem?

Those same studies show that if we have a high degree of bias, we tend to see just as much bias in others. Seeing all those biases in others, we tend to dismiss their input, advice or counsel. We become more biased by being more biased. The blind spot bias can grow to a point where we see everyone else acting out of self-interest and bias and only one person (us) being able to make rational, unbiased decisions.

Now, obviously it doesn’t always go this far, in fact, decisions made by those around the true average blind spot bias are no more or less likely to be bad decisions than those made by truly unbiased decision-making processes.

What is an unbiased decision-making process? Generally, a group decision or a process that involves several reviews before action is taken will minimize bias.

Need some examples of a blind spot bias. Here are a few we can all relate to:

Politicians are not influenced by campaign contributions from special interests groups.

Doctors do not prescribe certain medications simply because there are given samples or treated to lunch by the pharmaceutical representative.

Teachers grading of students is only based on their performance in the subject and not on their behavior or attitude in class.

The bottom-line is simply this. We all have a blind spot bias. It’s human; we all do it because we are all human. Accurately assessing our biases is difficult, if not impossible. However, simply because we all do it does not eliminate the harm, a blind spot bias can do.

Study after study has shown that when we do not or are unable to recognize bias, we act on them more and more and at the same time we see more and more bias in others. Such thinking tends to isolate decision-making into smaller and smaller groups or individuals; effectively cutting off expertise and knowledge from those the isolated decision-makers see as more bias than themselves.

Finally, when pondering the potential effects of the blind spot bias on your work, your relationships or your life in general, be aware of these results. Repeatedly in dozens of studies, it has been shown that some people are more susceptible to a blind spot bias. However, those same studies demonstrate that intelligence, self-esteem, and other cognitive abilities have no effect on the strength or weakness of an individual’s blind spot bias.

You can’t think your way out of bias. We all have them. What you can do is be aware of your nature to have a blind spot bias and seek outside input in making truly big decisions. When we put our equally biased brains together, we are able to dramatically lower the effects of the blind spot bias.


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