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Naive Realism — I’m Right; You’re Biased

We’re good at spotting others’ faults while ignoring our own.

If someone informed you of your biases do you think you’d change your response?

Not likely. Even when we know about our biases and we’re asked ‘do you want to change what you just said’ the results are the same.

We’re happy to learn about biases, we even apply this knowledge to better predict the behavior of others. However, when it comes to ourselves, we’re unmoved.

You probably think you’re an above average driver.

Now I can shake you and tell you that most people have an inflated view of themselves. I can tell you that you’re biased. I can tell you to be realistic.

And you’re still going to look at me and say “Other people may be biased but I really am an above average driver.”

Why is this? Emily Pronin at Princeton and Lee Ross at Stanford trace our resistance to self-awareness to a phenomenon they call naive realism.

From The Happiness Hypothesis:

Each of us thinks we see the world directly, as it really is.

We further believe that the facts as we see them are there for all to see, therefore others should agree with us.

If they don’t agree, it follows either that they have not yet been exposed to the relevant facts or else that they are blinded by their interests and ideologies.

People acknowledge that their own backgrounds have shaped their views, but such experiences are invariably seen as deepening one’s insights; for example, being a doctor gives a person special insight into the problems of the health-care industry. But the background of other people is used to explain their biases and covert motivations; for example, doctors think that lawyers disagree with them about tort reform not because they work with the victims of malpractice (and therefore have their own special insights) but because their self-interest biases their thinking.

It just seems plain as day, to the naive realist, that everyone is influenced by ideology and self-interest. Except for me. I see things as they are.

It’s so easy for this to move from the individual to the group level. My group is right because we see things as they are and your group is wrong because you are biased by your ideology, religion, or self-interest.