From early on in their training, psychologists are taught that they have certain “cognitive biases” to overcome. Like every other human, psychologists observe people and judge them by certain beliefs, ideas or attitudes they have. Because diagnosing people with a certain disorder is an enormous responsibility, they have to make sure they don’t judge them incorrectly.
For instance, when an eccentric looking man, who speaks incoherently and in odd language, you might be easy to attribute it to a psychotic disorder, but it might as well be a schizoid personality disorder, which is something different altogether. These two disorders require very different sorts of treatment and if the person is misdiagnosed, it could be very harmful.
Consequently, it is of extreme importance that psychologists are always aware of the biases and stereotypes we humans judge people by and overcome them. We should never stick to our first impression, even if it turns out to be correct. It’s important to be open for other possibilities.
The following is a list of biases and heuristics people use in their every day lives to judge others and events. These could all prove to be death traps (career-wise) for psychologists.
10. Mere Exposure Effect
The mere exposure effect is a phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them.
A self-serving bias occurs when people attribute their successes to internal or personal factors but attribute their failures to situational factors beyond their control. The self-serving bias can be seen in the common human tendency to take credit for success but to deny responsibility for failure.
8. Perceptual Salience and Attribution
When people try to make attributions about another’s behavior, their information focuses on the individual. Their perception of that individual is lacking most of the external factors which might affect the individual. The gaps tend to be skipped over and the attribution is made based on the perceived information most noticeable.
7. In-Group Out-Group Bias
In-group–out-group bias refers to the phenomenon of in-group favoritism, a preference and affinity for one’s in-group over the out-group, or anyone viewed as outside the in-group.
6. Actor-Observer Bias
People tend to attribute other people’s behaviors to their dispositional factors while attributing own actions to situational factors. Basically, even in the same situation, people’s attribution can differ depending on their role(actor or observer). Actor-observer bias should not be confused with dispositional attributions, although somewhat similar.
5. Bandwagon Effect
The bandwagon effect is a phenomenon that people often do and believe things merely because many other people do and believe the same things. For instance, at one point in recent history, ADHD was hyped among psychologists, and so, the amount of people diagnosed with ADHD increased tremendously.
4. Dispositional Attributions
Dispositional attribution is a tendency to attribute people’s behaviors to their dispositions: character traits (or personality) and abilities. In dispositional attribution, situational factors that might have influenced the person are left out of the equation.
3. Availability Heuristic
The availability heuristic is a phenomenon in which people predict the frequency of an event, or a proportion within a population, based on how easily an example can be brought to mind. For example, someone believes smoking is not unhealthy because his grandfather, while he smoked a package a day for most of his life, lived to the age of 100. This grandfather might just be an unusual case and does not speak for the of smokers in general.
2. Halo Effect
The halo effect is a bias whereby the perception of one character traits is influenced by the perception of another trait (or several traits) of that person. An example would be judging a good-looking person as more intelligent.
1. Confirmation Bias
Confirmation bias is a tendency for people to prefer information that confirms their assumptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true. As a result, people gather evidence and recall information from memory selectively, and interpret it in a biased way.
There are hundreds of sorts of biases and heuristics. Psychologists, we, have to be extremely careful to not fall into any of these pits, but as you can imagine, it’s incredibly tough. Using bias and heuristics is something that happens automatically and it’s counter-intuitive to go against them, which makes it all the more easy for them to trap us.
Have you ever heard of any of these biases and heuristics before? Have you ever had these sorts of biases yourself?