Bias number one is known as the actor-observer bias. This bias belongs to a group of biases known as social or attributional biases as it can be found most often in relationships between people.
It goes like this. Imagine something doesn’t go quite to plan, let’s say at your place of work. If your actions have not met yours, your boss or your client expectations, you will provide external situational reasons for the mistake. For example, your computer crashed, so you couldn’t complete the work by the agreed deadline.
If, on the other hand, you are the observer of someone else’s unmet expectation, like a missed deadline, you will more likely attribute the mistake to the internal personality deficiencies of the person who has fallen short of the milestone.
This is most often found in cases when something “negative” has occurred and when the actor-observer relationship involves the actions of a person we don’t know very well or a person with whom we have a disagreeable relationship.
It is definitely easier and more comfortable to pinpoint personality flaws in another person than it is in ourselves. It is also true that when faced with negativity, people prefer to shirk responsibility and apportion blame onto external factors over admitting personal failings.
Does this sound familiar? Are you aware of this occurring in your own life?
So, what has you avoid being responsible for your mistakes? And, why are you so ready to criticise other people for theirs?
It’s a function of the limbic brain, the part of our brain connecting us to our mammalian nature that sees life as a competition. Whether we want to see ourselves as outwitting someone or we engage in conversations that generate brinkmanship, the goal is to ascend the mythical ladder of superiority.
The problem is, it comes at an expense, often in relationships with other people.
This kind of bias, like all biases, is inherently narcissistic. The desire to prop up your own self-image outweighs everything else, especially personal responsibility for shortcomings.
Ultimately, though, it damages your self-image, because it chips away at your inner moral compass — if you have one, that is.
How does that work? Let’s be honest. You know when you’ve been at fault for something. You also know when you are apportioning blame inappropriately for something. You can rationalise it to yourself, but a deeper part of you knows that you’re operating from an inauthentic double standard.
The beauty of this bias is that we can see it in action with recent events.
The world is witnessing people out on the streets, tearing down statues in the name of racial equality. The protestors claim that they will continue until the system meets their demands. It is the system’s fault that they experience the lack of success they feel they are owed.
I take the line of enquiry that asks for specifics in how this system is impeding success.
I ask it because it reveals people's biases. Mostly, people behave as though they have been handed a script that they must play. As the actor forced to play a role in an inherited script, they give up their innate human ability to be agents of their own life fulfilment.
This is a disempowering place to stand. They give up their right to self-determination. It's the voice of the victim, in this case the victim of circumstance.
And yet, when someone else makes a mistake, they readily attribute the mistake to a character flaw.
It is disempowering to assume that of another person AND it creates two sets of rules — one for the actor and one for the observer.
Rather hypocritical, don't you think?
It reminds me of the card games my husband and I played with our son when he was six. Our son made up the rules of the game as we went along, changing them regularly and heavily enforcing the rules to ensure he would win.
He was discovering how rules worked. In his six-year-old mind, winning was everything.
This is the voice of the fear-based survival mind, the mammalian mind, the mind that has not yet developed the capacity to think beyond social hierarchies. This mind is self-serving. It destroys the human potential for genuine equality, collaboration and abundance. And it’s unfortunate that we as a society have descended to this place in recent weeks.
Some people believe human beings are innately self-serving. They are when they operate from an animalistic perspective. In my experience, human beings, especially in the West, are trained to be self-serving, to value the security of one's identity over all else. Appealing to this base level attribute of human consciousness is the strategy that keeps social media companies in business, after all.
I invite you to try something different. I invite you to disengage from your animalistic neurology. I invite you to step out of your "inherited" drama. I invite you to explore personal responsibility and your character flaws. I invite you to transform your mammalian limitations into human possibilities.
To do that, you’ll need to exit stage left, throw away the old script, act out a new one and keep editing it until it works for you and those around you. You’ll soon become a genuine agent of transformation.
That’s the stuff real power, real BRILLIANCE is made of.