Teaching: Why the Bias Blind Spot Matters and How to Reduce It

Aimed at integrating cutting-edge psychological science into the classroom, Teaching Current Directions in Psychological Science offers advice and how-to guidance about teaching a particular area of research or topic in psychological science that has been the focus of an article in the APS journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.

More teaching resources in this Observer: The Perils of Post-Event Identification

Pronin, E., & Hazel, L. (2023). Humans’ bias blind spot and its societal significance. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 32(5), 402-409.

Bias pervades life. Systemic racism exists, but we fail to acknowledge our own racial bias. Rational behavior is rare, but we assure ourselves that we’re less susceptible to biased decision-making. Conformity is common, but we doubt we would follow others’ mistaken judgments. According to Emily Pronin and Lori Hazel (2023), we are blind to our own biases—causing us to recognize bias in others but rarely in ourselves. 

This bias blind spot is a robust phenomenon. Worldwide, researchers have replicated it for more than 50 biases, such as the self-serving bias, hindsight bias, and many others (Pronin & Hazel, 2023). The bias blind spot touches many significant life domains, including forensics, medicine, human resources, criminal justice, and political polarization.  

But why does the bias blind spot matter? For one, it interferes with accurate self-knowledge and fuels interpersonal conflict. To ignore our own biases is to ignore a part of ourselves. When we disagree with others, being blind to our own biases can set into motion what Pronin and Hazel (2023) call a “spiral of conflict.” Both parties in a disagreement tend to view their adversaries as biased and irrational and themselves as unbiased and rational (Kennedy & Pronin, 2008), but little progress or diplomacy is possible unless people become attuned to their own biases.

Read all of the articles from the September/October Observer.

Teaching students about the bias blind spot can help them increase their self-knowledge and reduce interpersonal misunderstandings and conflicts. The first activity shows students how the bias blind spot is a universal feature of human psychology. The second activity encourages students to consider why the bias blind spot matters. The third activity involves students designing interventions to reduce the bias blind spot. Students can complete each activity regardless of whether their course meets face-to-face or virtually.  

Student Activities

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Kennedy, K. A., & Pronin, E. (2008). When disagreement gets ugly: Perceptions of bias and the escalation of conflict. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(6), 833–848. 

Pronin, E., Lin, D. Y., & Ross, L. (2002). The bias blind spot: Perceptions of bias in self versus others. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(3), 369–381. 

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