Bias in perception | Tomorrow's World

Bias in perception

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Psychological research over the last few decades has shown that humans have biases that affect our ability to perceive correctly. These biases affect not only our perception but also our judgment, behavior and belief. Biased thinking leads to misunderstanding, wrong decisions, and to costly consequences and mistakes.

These research studies offer a fascinating glimpse of human nature. For instance, our human tendency is to believe the other person is biased, but not to believe that we ourselves are biased. When we fail to perceive our own biases, it warps our perceptions, judgments and decisions. The studies show that we not only recognize it in others but often overestimate its effect in the other person.

We've all heard that humans have a blind spot in our psyche. We aren't aware of it. Our reality is made up of our thoughts, assumed beliefs, our own self-awareness and introspection. When someone doesn't see things the way we do, we too often assume they are wrong and ill informed; they "can't see straight" or are just plain unintelligent, to put it nicely. By denying our own bias, we delude ourselves and fail to recognize our susceptibility to deception and self-deception.

Research also demonstrates an ironic tendency in human thinking to see ourselves in an overly positive way. Because we can mull over our own well of thoughts, feelings, and intentions, we can easily overestimate ourselves and convince ourselves of our positive traits. Even when evidence is presented that suggests otherwise, we delude ourselves by crediting our motives, intentions, feelings and emotions while ignoring our actual behavior. "We meant well. Our motive was good. It will lead to a good result." This is our innate desire to self-enhance. We misjudge ourselves as well as others.

We may think the solution is to simply eliminate the bias in our thinking and the problem will be solved. However, efforts at bias correction are complicated by the fact that we are unaware of our bias. If we do not recognize bias in ourselves, how can we eliminate it? And experiments have been conducted to manipulate the results by forewarning people to avoid the effects of various biases. These have been shown to be ineffective at removing biased thinking.

We even have what is called a "closeness-communication bias." We think our spouse or a close friend knows what we mean. We may use brief and ambiguous phrases in our communication with them because we just know they will understand because we know each other so well. But a study conducted at the University of Chicago shows that the communication accuracy rates are statistically the same with a stranger as they are with our spouse or close friend. And we wonder why we have communication problems!

What about our beliefs? Can our beliefs bias our perception? We may form stereotypic beliefs about a group of people. Consequently, our approach and treatment of members of this group is based on our belief. Our behavior towards them affects their response towards us and then reinforces our belief about them.

Another bias we have is called "normalcy bias." It causes us to underestimate the possibility of a disaster. The consequence is failure to prepare, resulting in death and destruction. Two well-known examples are Hurricane Katrina and the Holocaust. People often fail to heed the warnings about hurricanes and severe weather. People also fail to heed the warnings of God through His servants. Noah and old testament prophets come to mind.

Jesus Christ has given us plenty of warnings about future events. Can we see past our biased thinking and heed His warning? Will we overcome our "normalcy bias" and escape things which Christ prophesied are going to come to pass? Search this website, and read some of the eye-opening articles and booklets. Then verify it in your own Bible. Remove the bias and see clearly.

  Originally Published: 01st March 2011