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Study Reveals Our 'Bias Blind Spots'

A study by a couple of researchers at the University of Toronto and at James Madison University in Virginia proved something that we may already know. The study, provocatively called "Cognitive Sophistication Does Not Attenuate the Bias Blind Spot," concluded that we cut ourselves more slack than we give to others. No surprise there, right. But writing about this study in the New Yorker, Jonah Lehrer explains why we do this. He claims that we all have "bias blind spots" because there's a mismatch between how we evaluate others and how we evaluate ourselves. Lehrer writes:

When considering the irrational choices of a stranger, for instance, we are forced to rely on [how they behave]; we see their biases from the outside, which allows us to glimpse their [errors]. However, when assessing our own bad choices, we tend to engage in elaborate introspection. We [study] our motivations and search for relevant reasons; we lament our mistakes to therapists and ruminate on the beliefs that led us astray.

As an example, if we drive crazy through traffic it's because we have an important meeting or we don't do it that often, and so forth. But if someone else cuts us off in traffic there's one simple, observable explanation: he's a jerk. Lehrer concludes "[our bias blind spots] are largely unconscious, which means they remain invisible to self-analysis and [resistant] to intelligence." In other words, being smarter won't help you see your own junk. As a matter of fact, more intelligence may add to the problem.

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