Unconscious biases can greatly impact the decision-making process
A major decision-making limitation, and one which does not get adequate discussion in the worlds of business and commerce, is the impact of unconscious bias in the decision-making process.
Decision making is fraught with biases that cloud judgment. We often remember bad experiences as good, and vice versa. We can (and do) let our emotions turn a rational choice into an irrational one. And we use social cues, often unconsciously, to make choices and decisions.
According to Dr. Joseph Dispenza, author of Evolve Your Brain, our brains process 400 billion bits of information per second, but we are only aware of 2,000 of those. And, according to multiple sources on the Internet, the average number of remotely conscious decisions an adult makes each day is roughly 35,000. No wonder our brain looks for shortcuts for processing all this information and making decisions.
What is bias? Bias is an assumption about a category of people, objects, and events that produces a prejudice in favor of or against a thing, person, or group. Biases may have positive or negative consequences and stem from our tendency to organize our social worlds through categorization.
While a conscious bias is explicit, an unconscious bias is implicit. Both can impact decision making, either consciously or subconsciously.
Unconscious biases are stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form from outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups. In fact, unconscious biases emerge during middle childhood and appear to develop across childhood. One example of early biases most of have experienced is that girls who take charge on the school playground are labeled as “pushy” or “bossy,” while boys who do the same are seen as showing leadership capabilities.
Unconscious bias is more prevalent that conscious prejudice and is often incompatible with one’s own conscious values. Additionally, unconscious bias is more likely to be predominant when we are multitasking, working under time pressure, or tired.
This universal tendency toward unconscious bias exists because bias is rooted in the brain. Scientists have recently determined that bias is found in the same region of the brain (the amygdala) associated with fear and threat.
Biases are neither good nor bad. In fact, biases allow us to efficiently process information about people. In some ways, biases are merely mental shortcuts based partially on social norms and stereotypes. Having biases does not make you (or anyone else) a bad person, but it can make you a bad decision maker.
We will share with you the impact of biases on your decision-making processes in the next few posts, for understanding our biases and how these impact the decisions we make is definitely part of the art of great leadership.
This article is partially excerpted from my recent book Better Decisions Better Thinking Better Outcomes: How to go from Mind Full to Mindful Leadership, available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats.