Knowledge Is Power? | Psychology Today

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I am very happy to begin writing for Psychology Today and for any readers interested in the topic of bias. Many areas of social science and psychology cover biases. They include social psychology, cognitive psychology, and behavioral economics to name a few. I’ve been trained in social psychology, but I will draw from multiple areas.

The “fathers of behavioral economics,” psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, earned that title through their work on biases (Lam, 2017). In particular, they studied heuristics, which are the mental shortcuts people often take in making decisions. One of the defining features of heuristics is that they are fast, contributing to one of my regular suggestions for how to reduce bias—that we should slow down our thinking.

Heuristics don’t always lead to errors, just like stereotypes often have a kernel of truth. But the kernel is usually much smaller than most of us think and never justifies making assumptions about a particular individual.

Does knowing the actual size of the kernel help to reduce bias? Does knowledge give us power to be less biased? Yes, but not as much as we would hope.

Despite the claim by many popular press authors that learning about bias reduces bias, learning about bias is limited in how much it can help. For example, most people who read about bias think the bias pertains to other people, not themselves. Most of us have a hard time seeing our own bias, which is…

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