After a long day of doing mostly nothing, we relax, lay down on our couches and start thinking about our days. The people we met, the things we did, the animals we loved, and basically everything that happened on that boring, empty day. However, most people won’t just analyze the flow, but they’ll wrongfully analyze the people, thoughts, and ideas based on… Well... Their own beliefs.
I’m not saying it’s unnatural — we’re all biased from every single point of view. The problem is that we often don’t see it, and it can get pretty ugly if we contradict someone who’s just as biased. But hey, I’m here to help and by the end of this article, you’ll identify your own biases — and may even be a little ashamed of them (I know I was).
What Are Biases?
There are tons of definitions for these psychological/cognitive biases, and while all of them are true, they’re also a little complicated to understand — especially if you’ve never worked with them before.
I see biases as ideas, beliefs, or tendencies that lead you to take wrong decisions, judge people, ideas, thoughts, and that also keep you in your own bubble. As long as you’re biased from one point of view or another, you won’t get too far in life. I know it sounds tough, but being biased means being stuck on one path — if you refuse to look left and right and listen to more than one opinion, you’re lost.
What Are the Main Biases?
There are a lot of biases, but I won’t go into detail with all of them. However, I noticed that there are 5 main biases people deal with on a daily basis, so we’ll discuss those.
The confirmation bias is probably my favorite (mostly because I see it EVERYWHERE with fake news and people who think they’re above science but did their research in a 5-minute bathroom session).
The explanation for it is pretty simple: someone, somewhere on this planet, really wants to believe that tap water makes plants grow faster. Later that day, week, month, life, they read that tap water causes flowers to grow faster (it’s a made-up fact).
From now on, that person will believe that tap water actually makes flowers grow faster, even if that fact doesn’t have any value, it hasn’t been tested, and it was, in fact, just a title on an ad that managed to trigger their belief. Even more, they’re willing to argue with anyone, including people who did the research and discovered that tap water actually makes flowers grow slower, that their belief is right.
Does this sound familiar? This is the confirmation bias. You accept anything as evidence as long as it supports your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs.
What’s really bothering, is that we’re getting more and more fake news, so this confirmation bias gets even deeper into our minds. Sometimes we read the title, we know it’s BS, but a small part of us still believes it in a brain-dead moment.
I found a really cool way to discover if you’re biased like this. Take something you really believe in. Then, find all the possible arguments that the thing you believe in is wrong. If you can’t seem to find any arguments, then you’re either biased or too specific (you won’t find much evidence against 2+2 being 4).
For example, take people against the MMR vaccine (if you don’t know, there was a fake study back in the 90’s stating that the MMR vaccine caused autism which was eventually called out — the doctor got its license removed after he admitted that the entire study was a fraud). A lot of these people will tell you that the doctor was right — some will even claim that it happened to their kids (I’m not denying that it’s something real, but the MMR vaccination age and the age where people discover what’s really happening with their kids is similar — Google it). Even when they’re presented with all the scientific evidence, these people won’t even blink — they’re biased. They’ll never accept the fact that their idea may be wrong.
So, do the test yourself. Take something you believe in and see if you’re more interested in correcting the fact, or in enforcing it.
The Halo effect is actually cute — until it’s stupid. In a general way, the Halo effect it’s defined as a tendency to attribute nice, good, pleasant characteristics to a person from the moment you meet them. It’s usually based on personal experiences and I believe that it has something to do with the number of people you met in your life.
As you probably noticed by now, there are thousands of types of people, all with different personalities, triggers, and ideas. So if you once met a kind grandpa, you may assume that all grandpas who resemble the initial one are going to be the same. However, you may have a surprise when that’s not the case and you run into a grumpy old man. Ok, that’s its most basic form.
Through social media, it’s super easy to identify this bias. For example, you see a super hot chick online, and you automatically assume she’s nice. You try talking to her and realize that you can’t have a normal conversation because her brain doesn’t work (this applies to all people, but I just gave an example).
The problem is that the Halo effect gives some people an advantage. It may be in a relationship, workplace, school, anything. What you need to do is make sure you always start with an open mind — don’t assume that someone’s going to be nice just because they look familiar, don’t assume someone’s super smart because they have a Ph.D., and don’t assume that you’ll have a future together just because they like ice cream too.
The Horns effect is the direct opposite of the Halo effect. Instead of giving nice, pleasant characteristics to people, we give awful ones. So if you see someone who forgot to get a haircut, you may assume that they’re lazy. Or if one of your students has a bad period, you’ll assume that they’re not interested.
How to see if you’re biased like this? Open Instagram and scroll until you find something you find annoying, bad, repulsive, etc — when you find it, ask yourself why you feel that way. It may be the bias speaking.
People always try to connect with the things they know, rather than new ones, and this is what the affinity bias is all about. If you’re just starting a new job, you’ll probably befriend someone who has something in common with you. It may be that you went to the same school, you have the same haircut, you grew up in the same town, anything you may have in common.
Even though it doesn’t sound very bad, it can be pretty sh***y if you’re on the other side, and this involves caring for what other people feel. If you’re working with a group of people who went to the same college, but there are also a couple more “outsiders,” you won’t even try to speak with them at first. You’ll automatically have a group of favorite people because you have one thing in common with them.
This one’s pretty easy to spot — are you more likely to befriend someone you have something in common with?
I also call this the art of not giving credit. It’s quite easy to understand: when we achieve something, we believe it’s because we worked hard (and it’s the case most times). When someone else achieves something, we first think that something helped them do it — we basically don’t trust people enough to give them credit for something they achieved.
This affects us everywhere — when we apply for new jobs when we try to get into college, or even when we try to have a conversation with someone and back up our knowledge with a degree.
Identifying Your Own Biases
To see if you’re biased, you need to do one small thing — take something you believe in and start looking for evidence that contradicts it. The moment you can say “well, I may have been wrong and there are more shades in it,” you realize you’ve been biased to some extent.
Unsolicited advice, don’t fall into the trap of idiocracy — keep an open mind and analyze all the ideas, thoughts, and opportunities you see. Otherwise, life will just pass by you.