We're all biased - and there's not much we can do about it
Do you consider that you are more or less biased than the average person?
In a 2015 study, a few hundred US citizens were asked the same question - and surprisingly, more than 85% of them believed that they were less biased than the average American. (Study here)
It seems that most people believe themselves to be less biased than others, which is obviously statistically not true.
Simply put, the bias blind spot means that they are less likely to detect bias in themselves than in others.
Being self-aware increases your chances of realising when your bias is impacting your behaviour and perceptions - although it can do little to prevent it from happening in the first place.
A really good resource for identifying your subconscious bias is the Implicit Association Test by Harvard, which you can access here.
In just 5 minutes, you’ll be able to see which way you are biased in relation to different variables, such as race and gender.
The distorted appreciation of the quality of our own decision-making seems to be linked to another bias called the ‘self-enhancement’ bias.
This one plays a role in motivating us to see ourselves in a positive light. Because biases are seen as undesirable, we may try and distance ourselves from them as much as we can - thus biasing us further into thinking that we are rational in our decision-making.
It's a complete vicious circle or biases intertwined with more biases.
So what’s the solution?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one.
Research shows that even people who are aware of the biases affecting them can still not control them, and that is because of their subconscious nature.
So even when we know we are biased, we can not help it.
What we can do, however, is be aware of the fact that the way in which we see the world is intensely personal and subjective, flawed and tainted by bias.
If we develop the self-awareness necessary to hold our opinions gently, we’ll at least have a chance at communicating well through accepting the fact that our way of seeing the world may not be the best way, while also being more understanding of other people's reasoning flaws.
- Even though we may be aware that biases affect us, we are still not able to control them due to their subconscious nature;
- Perhaps the game lies not in not being biased, but managing to hold our opinions and perceptions more gently.