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.

Resources:

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-status-quo-bias.htm

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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.

 

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_phenomenon

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.

Resources:

http://www.psychologycampus.com/social-psychology/self-perception.html

The Asch Experiment

The Asch conformity experiments were a series of laboratory studies published in the 1950s that demonstrated a surprising degree of conformity to a majority opinion.

Experiments led by Solomon Asch of Swarthmore College asked groups of students to participate in a “vision test.” In reality, all but one of the participants were confederates of the experimenter, and the study was really about how the remaining student would react to the confederates’ behaviour.

Summary of results

Variations of the basic paradigm tested how many cohorts were necessary to induce conformity, examining the influence of just one cohort and as many as fifteen. Results indicate that one cohort has virtually no influence and two cohorts have only a small influence. When three or more cohorts are present, the tendency to conform increases only modestly.

Asch suggested that this reflected poorly on factors such as education, which he thought must over-train conformity. Others have argued that it is rational to use other people’s judgements as evidence.’ Others suggest it is polite and politic, consistent with subjects’ claims that they did not believe the others’ judgements – they merely conformed.

The unanimity of the confederates has also been varied. When the confederates are not unanimous in their judgement, even if only one confederate voices a different opinion, participants are much more likely to resist the urge to conform (only 5-10% conform) than when the confederates all agree. This finding illuminates the power that even a small dissenting minority can have. Interestingly, this finding holds whether or not the dissenting confederate gives the correct answer. As long as the dissenting confederate gives an answer that is different from the majority, participants are more likely to give the correct answer. Males show around half the effect of females (tested in same-sex groups); and conformity is higher among members of an ingroup.[2]

One difference between the Asch conformity experiments and the Milgram experiment is that some subjects in the Asch conformity experiments attributed their conforming incorrect answers to their own misjudgement and “poor eyesight” (denying they believed the incorrect response), while those in the Milgram experiment placed blame for their behaviour on the study coordinators. Conformity may be much less salient than authority pressure.

 

Resources

http://www.simplypsychology.org/asch-conformity.html

http://www.experiment-resources.com/asch-experiment.html

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

Resources:

http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/10/halo-effect-when-your-own-mind-is.php

In-group bias

In-group bias is purely the tendency to favour one’s own group. This is not one group in particular, but whatever group you associate with at a particular time. For example, when you play on a soccer team that meets once a week, you are part of that soccer team’s in-group. It can also be something more sever, like the situation between religious groups in Ireland.

smiley face, in group, psychology

Resources:

http://www.alleydog.com/glossary/definition.php?term=Ingroup%20Bias

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-group_favoritism