Research has confirmed what many of us may already know: we are far better at spotting bias in others than in ourselves. While we may recognize the existence and impact of bias to affect judgment and assumptions, we may lack insight as to how the same biases shape our own. We assume that our ability to be objective works well for us but that others are not as able to do the same.
We all perceive the world through the prism of our current circumstances, experiences, knowledge, needs, desires and emotions. Even when we think that we are compensating for our own bias, we each have a “bias blind spot.” We generally assume that if we are biased, we would be aware of it. But, for a variety of reasons, our bias formation operates unconsciously. We have the impression that our personal experiences have given us greater insight and that our impression of reality is objective. If we are “objective”, then it must be that the others who see things differently are “biased.”
What is fascinating about the exploration of people’s perceptions of bias is the implication for conflict resolution. If we are unable to recognize our own biases, we cannot work to correct them. If we impute bias to others, but not ourselves, it has the potential to intensify misunderstanding, escalate conflict and frustrate resolution.
One of my goals, whether working as a mediator, conflict or Collaborative coach, is to identify and reduce barriers to communication in order to facilitate understanding. I take this role seriously and continually explore what bias may be lurking in the unconscious to assure that my clients? perspectives are heard and understood.
For an initial exploration of the research in the field of bias blind spots see:
Pronin, Emily. (2007). Perception and Misperception of Bias in Human Judgment. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 11:1 37-43. Available on line at www.sciencedirect.com.
Pronin, Emily, Daniel Y Lin and Lee Ross, (March 2002) The Bias Blind Spot: Perception of Bias in Self Versus Others. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.28: 3 369?381.