You Probably Have a Bias for Making Bad Decisions. Here's Why.

 
 
Cognitive biases cloud our decision making like a San Francisco fog in the brain. Here is recent research on psychological factors that fool us into hiring bad employees, favoring one gender or race over another, or giving more weight to the last information we've received.
 
 
by Sean Silverthorne
taha ajmi/Unsplash

Until the last year or so, the term "recency bias" was rarely a topic of cocktail conversation—unless it was a gathering of behavioral scientists letting their hair down. But then a news item surfaced about certain White House staffers who angle to get the final audience of the day with the president, believing the last idea he hears is the one most likely to be chosen.

If true, the president is no better or worse than most of us in allowing cognitive biases to cloud our thinking. We are, for example, more likely to seek information that aligns with our existing beliefs (confirmation bias), to give ourselves too much credit or not enough blame (self-serving bias), or to place more value on losing $100 than making $100 (loss aversion).

In business, a bias-clouded decision can have disastrous consequences, so researchers at Harvard Business School invest much time in understanding how all this works. Here's a look at stories on some of those research areas and what they mean for becoming a better decision maker.

Venture Investors Prefer Funding Handsome Men

Studies reveal that investors prefer pitches from male entrepreneurs over those from female entrepreneurs, even when the content of the pitches is identical. And handsome men fare best of all.

Why Employers Favor Men

Why are women discriminated against in hiring decisions? The answer is more subtle than expected.

Simple Ways to Take Gender Bias Out of Your Job Ads

Gender bias manifests itself in many ways—starting with job listings.

Better by the Bunch: Evaluating Job Candidates in Groups

The key to avoiding gender stereotyping in the hiring process lies in evaluating job candidates as a group, rather than one at a time.

Why Unqualified Candidates Get Hired Anyway

Why do businesses evaluate candidates solely on past job performance, failing to consider the job's difficulty? Why do university admissions officers focus on high GPAs, discounting influence of easy grading standards? Researchers investigate the "fundamental attribution error."

Minorities Who 'Whiten' Job Resumes Get More Interviews

African American and Asian job applicants who mask their race on resumes seem to have better success getting job interviews.

The Case Against Racial Colorblindness

Attempting to overcome prejudice by ignoring race may only perpetuate more bias.

Research Papers

Is Overconfidence a Motivated Bias? Experimental Evidence

People are most at risk of making overly positive self-assessments when their assessment criteria are not clearly defined.

What do you think of this research?

Has bias crawled into your own decision making? How do you fight this tendency? Give us your insights below.

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