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.
The world is inundated with bias.
Whether you’re talking about identity politics, health, religion or the weather, you’re almost certainly expressing your views from a bias of some sort.
So, what is bias?
Let’s look at the definition. Wikipedia defines cognitive bias as, “a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_bias)
Stated in another way, it’s the interpretation of a situation or a person that arises in a deviation from logical thought.
This begs the question then, “What is logic?”
Again, Wikipedia simplifies the definition by stating it as, “the analysis and appraisal of arguments.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logic). Interestingly, though, the article acknowledges that the definition itself is still being debated some 2,300 years after the word was coined by Aristotle.
What does that say to you?
It says to me that the unsuccessful attempts to come up with a definitive definition of logic suggests bias is at play.
Try as we might, we as humans have not yet overcome the innate tendency to view the world from our personal, singular point of view. We have moments when we awaken to another point of view, and then we quickly retract back into our personal narrative.
Is it a function of our biological limitations? Do our biases change over time or are we stuck with them for life? Can we ever really free ourselves from bias?
I am biased in my own point of view when I say that anything is possible. I have witnessed the miraculous in myself and others to the extent that I have had to suspend my own beliefs about what’s possible.
Those who have not had the same experiences scoff at the notion. Their personal version of what is logical and rational offers a different view.
How do you explain evidence that defies logic? Who is right? Is this even the question to ask?
I want to propose an alternative way of looking at this. What if there is no right way of looking at experience? What if being attached to a “right” view wrongs other views?
We know that “right” is a subjective experience, inherently biased according to a particular point of view, that in its very essence makes it limited, one-dimensional and incomplete.
Why even bother to try to be right about anything? As humans, we get stuck in the endless loop of desperately trying and failing to come to consensus as our biases fight for the right to be right.
Woe betide anyone who dares to offer a divergent point of view that challenges the consensus. Confrontation with a collective bias opens you up to being beaten back with vitriol and venom. I know this from personal experience.
While this is unpleasant, I can forgive people for being unconscious. I can and regularly do forgive myself for being unconscious. After 20 years on the road of self-discovery, I know that each uncomfortable experience offers up the opportunity to discover something new about myself and human beings as a result.
And since we are being thrown about on the high seas of bias at the moment, I thought I would use this as an opportunity to educate myself, and those who are interested in joining me, in the world of bias by exploring a new one every week.
Starting with A, I will demystify the 90+ biases identified by psychologists that affect human thinking by examining the definition of an identified bias and illustrating how it manifests in life on a daily basis.
In the process, I will clear out the cupboards of my own bias, and in doing so, my aim will be to help you do the same.
As a mental health professional, I know that if I want to see transformation in the world, I have to BE it. That means doing my own work, being responsible for my own deviations from rational logic. That creates a clearing in me that provides a space in which you can transcend your own biased thinking.
My goal is to deepen my own knowledge of self and help you discover yourself through my sharing. Together, we can evolve our minds and our neurology beyond the current limiting narratives.
At the risk of being biased, my personal logic dictates that anything is possible. Want to discover how yours can be, too? Then follow my LinkedIn company account Business Brilliance, where I will be posting these posts on a weekly basis.
Ready for a rollercoaster ride of a lifetime? Let's go!