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Beyond Bias

Neuroscience research shows how new organizational practices can shift ingrained thinking.

Imagine that you are hiring an employee for a position in which a new perspective would be valuable. But while reviewing resumes, you find yourself drawn to a candidate who is similar in age and background to your current staff. You remind yourself that it’s important to build a cohesive team, and offer her the job.

Or suppose that you’re planning to vote against a significant new investment. This is the second time it’s come up, and you voted no before. A colleague argues that conditions have changed, the project would now be highly profitable, and you can’t afford to lose this opportunity. Upon closer examination, you see that his data is convincing, but you vote no again. Something about his new information just doesn’t feel relevant.

These are examples of common, everyday biases. Biases are nonconscious drivers — cognitive quirks — that influence how people see the world. They appear to be universal in most of humanity, perhaps hardwired into the brain as part of our genetic or cultural heritage, and they exert their influence outside conscious awareness. You cannot go shopping, enter a conversation, or make a decision without your biases kicking in.

On the whole, biases are helpful and adaptive. They enable people to make quick, efficient judgments and decisions with minimal cognitive effort. But they can also blind a person to new information, or inhibit someone from considering valuable options when making an important decision.

Read more: Beyond Bias

 

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