Self-interest bias

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Perceptions and expectations are often biased in self-serving manner. When presented with identical information, individuals perceive situation in dramatically different ways. This depends on their roles in this situation.

Individuals first determine their preferences for a certain outcome on the basis of self-interest and then justify this preference on the basis of fairness by changing the importance of attributes affecting what is fair. Assessment of what is fair is often biased by self-interest.

Fairness criteria is abstract. It is common in a conflict to suggest a self-serving solution. Individuals honestly believe it is fair for them to have more of a given resource than an independent advisor would suggest. We fail to interpret information in an unbiased manner.

Filters and choices driving selective perception occur at a preconscious level. People are unaware if their vulnerability to bias. Even intelligent people continue to believe in their owns fairness and objectivity. They also think that anyone who challenges their well considered beliefs must themselves be biased.

For example: two schools were presented a football film. Individuals watched the same film, but each side thought that the opposing team played unfairly and engaged in more aggressive and unsportsmanlike conduct. Two groups “saw a different game” even though they watched the same movie.

Standards of evidence

When people encounter favourable information they accept it uncritically. In contrast, negative information produces more critical and suspicious evaluations. We tend to select standards of evidence in self-serving ways.

We accept an argument when available data are consistent with our beliefs. However, we require more data to support the argument if that is not consistent with our understandings.

As an example: Ditto and Lopez (1992) experiment asked participants to select a co-worker. People were led to believe one co-worker was more helpful, friendly and the other co-worker was rude and inconsiderate. (1) Then evidence suggested that friendly co-worker was smarter, people stopped searching for information and picked him. (2) However, then evidence favoured the jerk, individuals kept seeking more information, hoping to justify the choice they wanted to make.

Adapted from

Bazerman, M.H. and Moore, D.A., 1994. Judgment in managerial decision making (p. 226). New York: Wiley.

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