How to manage “Blind Spot Bias”

by Nov 2, 2021

Blind Spot Bias

Blind spot bias means that you believe you are less biased than other people. As a result, you may not be able to spot your own biases.

 

I was recently asked to participate in a LinkedIn live hosted by US-based career coach Loren Greiff, founder of PortfolioRocket on Blind Spot Bias. You can watch the session recording here.

It helped me focus my thinking.

The American Psychological Association’s Dictionary of Psychology defines blind spot bias as “the tendency of people to see themselves as less susceptible to nonconscious predispositions and cognitive influences than others.” This concept was first proposed in a study entitled, “The Bias Blind Spot: Perceptions of Bias in Self Versus Others.” from Princeton University psychologists Emily Pronin, Daniel Lin, and Lee Ross.

We think we are less biased than we are

In everyday language, a blind spot bias means that you believe you are less biased than other people. As a result, you are less likely to be able to spot your own biases. This means that those biases become more firmly entrenched and are more difficult to manage.

Research from Carnegie Mellon suggests that only 1 in 661 people believe that they are more biased than their peers.

The reality is that everybody has biases. If you have a brain, you have a bias. Every individual in our world has a bias, but usually multiples. Biases can be both positive and negative. Whatever you read they can’t be eliminated, only managed.  When we are unable to acknowledge and accept our own biases and identify and manage them, if they are hurtful or destructive, at best we are self-limiting.

In worst-case scenarios they can be damaging if our attitudes and behaviours contribute to negative or toxic cultures and discrimination and prejudice. They can interfere with our personal growth by stopping us making balanced factually based decisions. We get trapped in assumptions and knee -jerk emotional reactions.

Accept you have biases

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
― Anaïs Nin

My perception is not everyone’s reality. We all have a worldview that is rooted in our own experience and history. This influences all our behaviour, interactions, and our interpretations of the world and events. The downside is that it can blind us to the fact that there is more than one-way to look at situations. Problems are rarely binary, but like diamonds, multifaceted and can be viewed from many different angles. We have to get used to seeing an alternative viewpoint, to break out of our bubbles and see things from a different perspective.

It’s important to recognise biases when we see them or hear them and also to be able to identify our own biases. We then have to learn to manage them and recognise our triggers. If in doubt take the Harvard Implicit Bias Test.

Another good test is to take a look at your network and see how diverse it is. Do you have a wide range of friends and colleagues, or are you confined to a cookie-cutter cohesive group? If you do, try expanding your horizons by reaching out to different groups to meet new people. Read books or watch films you wouldn’t normally see. Look at life from the other side of the coin.

Try one of our Online Learning Programmes for How to Create a Bias Conscious Workplace.

 Challenge assumptions

Developing a growth mindset and learning to ask questions and for feedback is critical to overcoming a blind spot bias. Learn to shift from defensive to discovery and not to make assumptions. Gather the facts and then make a decision.  If you are triggered, pause and then speak or react. It’s important to become mindful of your own behaviour, to treat people with empathy, and learn to embrace difference and not see it as a threat.  In that pause, you will have the chance to manage your emotions and behaviour. That short space of time, only six seconds is needed to allow you to manage your emotions and to choose how to respond thoughtfully. This puts you in control.

blind spot bias

 

See something. Say something. Do something.

66-75% of inappropriate behaviours are unreported. It’s more important than ever to speak up when you see or hear something that may be rooted in a bias. This doesn’t have to cause conflict, but should be treated as part of the discovery process by asking questions to gain a better understanding.

Learning to manage our biases and to understand especially a blind spot bias needs to be part of ongoing self-work. Don’t think by taking the Harvard Test or participating in a short training, that everything will be fine. The discovery process requires ongoing mindfulness and empathy plus a willingness to receive feedback.

To embrace difference we all need to do that. We have to be the change we want to see.

 

If your organisation needs support with unconscious bias training get in touch with us today

 

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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