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Monday, December 28, 2020

Bias in bias recognition: People view others but not themselves as biased by preexisting beliefs and social stigmas

Wang Q, Jeon HJ (2020) 
PLoS ONE 15(10): e0240232. 


Biases perpetuate when people think that they are innocent whereas others are guilty of biases. We examined whether people would detect biased thinking and behavior in others but not themselves as influenced by preexisting beliefs (myside bias) and social stigmas (social biases). The results of three large studies showed that, across demographic groups, participants attributed more biases to others than to themselves, and that this self-other asymmetry was particularly salient among those who hold strong beliefs about the existence of biases (Study 1 and Study 2). The self-other asymmetry in bias recognition dissipated when participants made simultaneous predictions about others’ and their own thoughts and behaviors (Study 3). People thus exhibit bias in bias recognition, and this metacognitive bias may be remedied when it is highlighted to people that we are all susceptible to biasing influences.

From the Discussion

Indeed, the current studies reveal the critical role of explicit beliefs about biases in underlying the biased reasoning concerning one’s own and others’ thoughts and behaviors: The more strongly people believed that biases widely existed, the more inclined they were to ascribe biases to others but not themselves. These findings suggest that the conviction that the world is generally biased and yet the self is the exception contributes to the self-other asymmetry in bias recognition. They further suggest important individual differences whereby some individuals more strongly believe that myside bias and social biases widely exist and yet convince themselves that “I’m not one of them” when making judgements about these biases in everyday situations. In comparison, individuals who held weaker beliefs about the biases attributed less bias overall and exhibited less self-other asymmetry in recognizing the biases. These findings thus provide valuable information for future focus-group interventions. They further suggest that when learning about bias, as occurs in most introductory psychology classes, students should be reminded that they are equally susceptible as others to biasing influences.