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Careful, Your Bias is Showing

April 14, 2017

 

 

You're perfectly rational, right?

 

You always make good decisions, you're fair and thoughtful, and would never let something interfere with your logical demeanor.

 

The bad news: you're kidding yourself.

 

The good news: you can do something to improve your decision-making.

 

Unfortunately, most of us have somewhat of a bias blind spot; we believe that we have fewer biases than others. This also means that we think we're right and the other person is wrong, and base our decisions on this premise.

 

Only this week we saw evidence of this mentality when a United passenger was forcibly removed from a flight, even though he had already paid for and was sitting in his seat. And now the airline is paying the price, both in terms of a PR disaster and dropping stock prices.

 

So much for the customer is always right.

 

Of course, this sort of poor decision-making could be avoided if United possessed what scientists refer to as intellectual humility: an awareness that one's beliefs may be wrong.

 

A recent Duke University research study on intellectual humility revealed that those with low intellectual humility (IH) tend to have a fixed mindset, and are not open to others' suggestions.

 

This can be a huge problem. As the study's lead author, Mark Leary, a professional of psychology and neuroscience at Duke, explains: "We know that good leadership requires broadness of perspective and taking as many perspectives into account as possible."

 

By contrast, says Leary, those with high IH aren't afraid to be proven wrong, despite having strong beliefs.

 

So, ask yourself: is your bias is showing?

 

Lest you fear you'll end up like a certain airline, here are a few tips to help you cultivate intellectual humility:

 

Listen

It's easy to get swept up in your own beliefs, especially if you feel passionately about them. But the danger here is that clinging to those beliefs will prevent you from considering other alternatives. Try, instead, to actively listen to understand—and possibly embrace—alternative points of view.

 

Adopt a growth mindset

There is a definite correlation between intellectual humility and open-mindedness. In fact, the Duke study's authors define intellectual humility as the opposite of intellectual arrogance. Those that maintain a growth mindset—the ability and capacity to always be open to learning new skills and knowledge—will find it far easier to improve their IH.

 

Consider high IH an asset — in business and life

Finally, don't discount the power of increased intellectual humility. Your ability to relate, understand, and empathize with people is linked to your level of IH. When you have high IH, the research study shows that your tolerance increases and you do a better job of evaluating the quality of evidence, which in turn improves your decision-making.

 

And who wouldn't want that?

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