Overcoming three types of biases

While many people are familiar with the concept of bias, having a deeper understanding of what it is and how it manifests is often the first step in circumventing negative ramifications. Bias can limit potential for growth, innovation and success on individual and community wide levels.

Conformity bias is best described as an individual going along with the opinion of a group, even if it directly contradicts what that individual believes. This can result in a group of people agreeing to something because they feel that’s what the overall group believes.

Confirmation bias means looking for evidence to back up already held beliefs or opinions. For example, if you’re a hiring manager, and believe people who attended “school X” are hard workers, you might not question their other qualifications as closely as someone who attended a school you’re not familiar with.

Attribution bias is often seen in conjunction with conformity bias. We see members of our “in-group” (those we see as part of our own cultural group) in a favorable and forgiving light. If someone from our own in-group makes a mistake, we’re more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. Conversely, we’re likely to be more critical of members of other groups, attributing mistakes as personal shortcomings or failures.

While all three types of biases have potential negative consequences, they can be avoided by recognizing common situations and hallmarks. By understanding how biases work and manifest, we can limit the impact they have on our decision-making.

Click here to submit a letter to the editor about this post.