Bias Blind Spot: Structure, Measurement, and Consequences

We all have bias of some form or another. It's natural. However, many of us are unaware that we are subject to these biases, formed as they often are by unconscious processes. We tend to more readily spot biased judgment in others. Consequently most people tend to believe they exhibit less bias in both judgment and behaviour than others. This phenomenon has been called the bias blind spot.

This research presents the development of a concise and reliable instrument to measure the propensity of individuals to exhibit the bias blind spot and found that the tendency to see ourselves as less biased than our peers is a stable individual difference across different contexts and over time, and is independent of intelligence, cognitive ability, and personality traits related to self-esteem, self-enhancement, and self-presentation.

The study also shows how the bias blind spot has important consequences for the quality of judgments and decisions. For example, it affects how accurately we evaluate our own abilities. It also has implications for how much we listen to others' advice (people high in bias blind spot may ignore the advice of financial experts or even doctors, for example) and how resistant we are to interventions designed to reduce our own bias. This paper demonstrates that an awareness of personal vulnerability to bias can help one be more receptive and open to advice or training from external sources. That, in turn, improves decision making, important in both the personal and professional realm.

Given the strong influence the bias blind spot can exert on judgment and decision making, the measure developed as part of this research may prove useful to those involved in personnel assessment, information analysis, negotiation, consumer decision making, and education.

The final version of the research paper was recently published in Management Science.