Everyday Bias | Howard J. Ross

Summary of: Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives
By: Howard J. Ross


Tackle your hidden biases and unlock better decision-making with ‘Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives’ by Howard J. Ross. This book summary explores how everyone, across the globe, is affected by their unconscious biases, despite efforts to counteract discrimination and prejudice. Delve into situations where biases come into play and how they can affect various decision-making situations. Additionally, learn about the cognitive strategies our minds use to filter reality and create biases. Unravel and develop an understanding of how you can use self-awareness and thoughtful analysis to mitigate your unconscious biases.

The Power of Hidden Biases

Biases are a part of everyone’s mental database of judgments and beliefs, but these biases are usually hidden in our unconscious minds. As a result, they affect our decisions beyond our awareness and can lead to unfair and tragic outcomes such as discrimination and inequality. Attempts have been made to eradicate these biases, but they still persist in our society. The only way to confront and undermine their power is to increase our awareness and consciousness of them.

Unconscious Biases

Our early ancestors had to quickly categorize people, objects, and animals as safe or unsafe, friend or foe to survive in a dangerous world. This instinct to make snap judgments based on superficial cues still exists in our brains today, leading to unconscious biases. We may reject a job candidate who resembles someone we don’t like, but rationalize our decision with a conscious reason. Exposure to people and groups we have biases against can help us dis-identify with them. However, not all biases come from personal experiences – many are picked up through cultural norms and media. Every political ideology has websites and channels that reinforce biases. It’s important to notice and understand our biases to deal with them more effectively.

The Brain’s Biases

The brain is wired to filter reality in a way that creates biases. This filter has three mechanisms: selective attention, confirmation bias, and pattern recognition. Selective attention helps you focus on relevant information and ignore the rest. An experiment showed that when subjects were asked to count passes in a basketball game, they failed to notice a gorilla walking in front of them. Confirmation bias is when you unconsciously look for information that supports your preconceptions. This bias is evident in how political commentators respond to current events, as they cherry-pick information to support their beliefs. Pattern recognition makes your brain try to match new experiences with familiar templates. If someone regularly acts in a threatening way, you might assume they’ll repeat this behavior. Understanding these biases can help you become more aware of how your brain filters reality and why you might have certain beliefs or assumptions.

The Power of Acknowledging Biases

Biases persist because we attempt to suppress them instead of acknowledging their existence and increasing awareness. The benefits of doing so are significant: we become aware of our automatic decision-making, discover hidden biases, and create a more diverse community. Unconscious influences dominate our lives, and acknowledging this fact may reduce the power of our biases. Take, for example, the study conducted on basketball referees, which found that white refs called fouls on black players more frequently than on white players. After the study’s revelation, the discrimination all but disappeared, even though the league did nothing to address it. Instead of provoking defensiveness, guilt, and denial, we should encourage people to become more aware of their biases, which would be more productive in bringing about change.

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