Ever noticed how you can make a decision or have an opinion without even really thinking about it? That’s your internal biases, and for better or worse, we all have them. But are yours holding you back?
We’ve heard how biases can affect “big-picture” decisions like hiring or even dating, but without even realising it, this form of decision-making could be impacting your more day-to-day decisions.
Biases are basically shortcuts. “They’re formed as quick ways of making sense of a lot of information,” says psychologist Euodia Chua. They aren’t always bad, though – like shortcuts, they help us save time. “When they work, they help us make decisions rapidly with as much information as we can digest,” says Euodia. But the downside is they can also lead us to judge a situation (or person) too quickly.
Being aware of your own biases is half the battle won. Once you know them, it’s easier to view a situation more objectively and apply more logic to it. Here are some of the most common biases practiced on the daily.
Who doesn’t love being right, right? But sometimes, we ignore information that challenges our beliefs – like when you’re convinced a guy is or isn’t into you and read all the signs wrong.
While it sounds counterintuitive, actively seeking information that opposes your views will help to balance out your possible prejudices.
People are naturally attracted to those they think they have things in common with. We tend to feel more understood and accepted in a group, and so we treat these people more favourably than outsiders. This can happen particularly at work when you all have a common enemy (aka the boss!), and also when choosing who to date.
To break this bias, Euodia suggests you, “keep an open mind and interact genuinely with individuals outside of your group.” Basically, the idea here is not to judge a book by its cover. You might have more in common with this new person that can transcend the surface-level differences.
“Most people would stick to what they know. This is OK until it means you’re missing opportunities, like new jobs or even meeting new people.”
This is when you place too much emphasis on the first piece of information offered when making decisions. It happens because the brain needs a reference point to measure subsequent information that comes its way.
Surprisingly, this is doing some serious damage to your wallet. Say you see a dress online that was $200, but is going on sale for $150. “What a great deal!” you think, and check out your shopping cart faster than you can say “ASOS”. Chances are, your decision to buy it was anchored on how much money you were supposedly saving, less so on whether you think the dress is worth $150 in absolute terms.
To overcome the achoring effect, “Don’t rush to make a decision,” Euodia advises. “Take time to evaluate the issue and consider various aspects.”
Change can be scary, so if given the choice, most people would stick to what they know. Which is fine, until you’re turning down a great new job opportunity. You know that saying “Do what scares you?” There’s definitely truth in it, though of course it’s easier said than done.
The best thing you can do is take baby steps. Start with something little you wouldn’t normally do, like ordering a new dish. If you like it, it will signal to your brain that change can be good; then, when a bigger opportunity comes up, you’re more likely to be open to it.
Images 123RF.com Text Claire Soong.