You’ve probably heard of the many cognitive bias studies where the vast majority of people rate themselves as among the best. Like the fact that 88% of college students rate themselves in the top 50% of drivers, 95% of college professors think they do above average work, and so on.
In light of this, I’ve just found a wonderfully ironic study that found that the majority of people rate themselves as less susceptible to cognitive biases than the average person.
It’s work from psychologist Emily Pronin who studies insight into our own judgements and how it affects our social understanding and perception of others.
In this study, the participants (psychology students no less), were given a booklet explaining how cognitive biases work that described eight of the most common ones. They were then asked to rate how susceptible they were to each of the biases and then how susceptible the ‘average American’ was.
Each rated themselves as less affected by biases than other people, instantly causing an irony loop in the fabric of space and time.
The study also had a fantastic follow-up that demonstrated just how strongly these cognitive biases affect our thinking. Even when they’re pointed out, we can’t escape them:
Participants in one follow-up study who showed the better than-average bias insisted that their self-assessments were accurate and objective even after reading a description of how they could have been affected by the relevant bias.
Participants in a final study reported their peer’s self-serving attributions regarding test performance to be biased but their own similarly self-serving attributions to be free of bias.
Pronin calls this the ‘bias blind spot’ and you can read the full study online as a pdf file. Pronin also wrote an excellent 2008 review, also available as a pdf, on how these biases mean we see ourselves differently from how we see others, because we have direct access to our own minds but only observations of other people.