The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight Bias

The illusion of asymmetric insight is a cognitive bias whereby people perceive their knowledge of others to surpass other people’s knowledge of themselves. This bias seems to be due to the conviction that observed behaviors are more revealing of others than self, while private thoughts and feelings are more revealing of the self.

We commonly believe that we understand others better than they understand us. The rationale for this stems from our external, objective viewpoint and the assumption that the other person has a significant blind self, whilst our own blind self is small.

There is also asymmetry in the reverse situation — we believe we understand ourselves better than others understand us and may feel insulted if they try to show they understand us more than we do.

The same effect happens for groups, where the in-group believes they understand out-groups better than out-groups understand them.

Overall, this is a position where we generally assume we know more than others, perhaps because we know more about what we know.


In an argument with another person you tell them what they are like in great detail because clearly they have very little self-knowledge. They argue back telling you things about yourself that are clearly wrong or that you knew anyway. How can people be so stupid?


Status quo bias

The status quo bias is a cognitive bias which leads people to prefer that things remain the same, or that things change as little as possible, if they absolutely must be altered. This cognitive bias plays a role in a number of fields, including economics, political science, sociology, and psychology, and numerous studies have been conducted on the status quo bias to look at ways in which this bias influences human behaviour. By being aware of the role that the status quo bias plays in their own lives, people can take steps to reduce the influence of this bias on their decision making.

While the status quo bias can provide a certain amount of self-protection by encouraging people to make safer choices, it can also become crippling, by preventing someone from making more adventurous choices. Like other cognitive biases, this bias can be so subtle that people aren’t aware of it, making it hard to break out of set patterns.


The just-world fallacy

The just-world hypothesis (or just-world fallacy) is a cognitive bias referring to the common assumption that the outcomes of situations are caused or guided by some universal force of justice, order, stability, or desert. In other words, the just-world hypothesis is people’s tendency to attribute consequences to, or expect consequences as the result of, a cosmic power responsible for the righting of past wrongs, injustices, or imbalances. The premise of the fallacy popularly appears in English in the form of various figures of speech, which often imply a negative reprisal of justice, such as: “You got what was coming to you,” “What goes around comes around,” and “You reap what you sow.”

This phenomenon has been widely studied by social psychologists since Melvin J. Lerner conducted seminal work on the belief in a just world in the early 1960s. Since that time, research has continued, examining the predictive capacity of the hypothesis in various situations and across cultures, and clarifying and expanding the theoretical understandings of just world beliefs.



Egocentric Bias

An egocentric bias occurs when one thinks of the world from one’s own point of view and self perception too much. Wishful thinking is a common example of an egocentric bias. Wishful thinking is essentially the belief that one is special. For positive traits, special means having more of the trait than others. In one study, it was found that 8 out of 10 people believed they had above average driving ability. If that’s true, then 2 out of 10 people must be really, really, bad drivers.

Judgements of traits are subject to wishful thinking or egocentric bias more if they are ambiguous than if they are unambiguous. For example, people believe themselves to be more fair (just) than others, and they think of themselves as more emotional than others. However, people don’t necessarily think of themselves as more competent (having more ability, e.g., more intelligence).

Why do people make egocentric biased judgements? Are people motivated to think of themselves as better than others? Not necessarily. One explanation that does not involve motivation goes as follows:

(a) People make judgements based on the information available

(b) People have access to more information about the judgement from their own point of view

(c) Therefore they use more information from their own point of view than from any other point of view. Hence, people make egocentric judgements, because the amount of information available for the judgement is greater for oneself than others, not because one is motivated to think better about oneself than others.


False-consensus effect

In psychology, the false-consensus effect is a cognitive bias whereby a person tends to overestimate how much other people agree with him or her. There is a tendency for people to assume that their own opinions, beliefs, preferences, values and habits are ‘normal’ and that others also think the same way that they do. This cognitive bias tends to lead to the perception of a consensus that does not exist, a ‘false consensus’. This false consensus is significant because it increases self-esteem. The need to be “normal” and fit in with other people is underlined by a desire to conform and be liked by others in a social environment.

The false-consensus effect is an important attribution bias to take into consideration when conducting business and in everyday social interactions. Essentially, people are inclined to believe that the general population agrees with their opinions and judgments, which, true or not, gives them a feeling of more assurance and security in their decisions. This could be an important phenomenon to either exploit or avoid in business dealings. For example, if a man doubted whether he wanted to buy a new tool, breaking down his notion that others agree with his doubt would be an important step in persuading him to purchase it. By convincing the customer that other people in fact do want to buy the appliance, the seller could perhaps make a sale that he would not have made otherwise.



The ultimate attribution error

Similar to the fundamental attribution error, in this error a person is likely to make an internal attribution to an entire group instead of the individuals within the group.

The ultimate attribution error is the tendency to explain negative behaviours of an out-group member as a flaw in their personality, and to justify positive behaviour performed by an out group member as a result of uncommon circumstances . It is also the belief that positive acts performed by in group members are a result of their personality, whereas if an in group member behaves negatively this is believed to be rare, and a result of situational factors

Examples: Little old ladies are assumed to be kind, Jews assumed avaricious, children assumed to be innocent, etc. (of course, these are not true)


The Halo Effect

The Halo Effect is the idea that global evaluations about a person (e.g. she is likeable) bleed over into judgements about their specific traits (e.g. she is intelligent). Hollywood stars demonstrate the halo effect perfectly. Because they are often attractive and likeable we naturally assume they are also intelligent, friendly, display good judgement and so on. That is, until we come across (sometimes plentiful) evidence to the contrary.

In the same way politicians use the ‘halo effect’ to their advantage by trying to appear warm and friendly, while saying little of any substance. People tend to believe their policies are good, because the person appears good. It’s that simple