Are Biases Impairing Your Decision Making?
Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC
We like to think that our decisions are rational and unbiased. Unfortunately, our decisions are not free from bias due to the enormous amount of information that we face at any given moment. Because of this, our brains must develop mental shortcuts (assumptions or rules of thumb) based on past knowledge to make decisions more quickly. Without these shortcuts, we would become paralyzed by the complexity of the information and decisions we face. Although necessary, sometimes these shortcuts result in judgmental errors. I’m going to share four biases that tend to impair our decision making most often, using the example of hiring a job candidate.
- Confirmation Bias – The tendency to look for information that supports your beliefs and opinions and ignore information that goes against them. For example, if you prefer a certain job candidate, you may focus on their positive qualities and ignore their negative qualities.
- Group Think – Dismissing your own opinion in favor of the group’s opinion. For example, going along with the group majority on interview panels, even if you disagree with panel’s candidate selection.
- Sunk Cost – Allowing a sunk cost (investment that has already been spent) to distort your judgment toward continuing a course of action. For example, holding on to a new hire that is not performing/not working out because you have already invested in recruiting and training them, and you don’t want to lose/give up on your investment.
- Impression Management – Escalating your commitment to a decision to manage the impression of others (save face). For example, holding on to a new hire that is not performing/not working out because you don’t want to admit that you made a poor hiring decision.
I hope that you can utilize this information to become more aware of your biases. We can’t make these biases completely go away, but we can acknowledge that we have them, and then slow down our decision making and check our assumptions. In doing so, hopefully we make better decisions.
“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are – or, as we are conditioned to see it.” – Dr. Stephen R. Covey
“It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” – Mark Twain