Awareness of Intimate Bias

A recent Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says we are biased to be generous in evaluating people we are intimate with, especially for mating-related traits, and are more biased for happier relationships.  We are also aware that we and others are biased in these ways:

Meta-awareness of bias in intimate partner judgments was investigated in 3 studies. In Study 1, participants rated fictional partners in happier relationships as more positively biased in their partner perceptions. In Study 2, participants thought their judgments of their own current partners were positively biased and that they were judged by their partners in a positively biased fashion. Using a sample of couples, Study 3 showed that metaperceptions of bias were anchored to actual levels of bias at the individual and relationship levels. In addition, positive bias was accentuated for traits that were more relevant to mate evaluation. These findings (as expected) suggest that positive bias in partner judgments can be a normative and consciously accessible feature of intimate relationships.

This is a clear example that being aware of our biases is not enough to eliminate them. 

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  • michael vassar

    I’m not sure that this counts as a bias at all. Sounds more like a mis-labeled preference.

  • Stuart Armstrong

    In this case, they probably lack the desire to overcome their biases…

  • http://homepage.mac.com/redbird/ Gordon Worley

    And even if you encounter someone who does desire to overcome all biases in order to better see the truth, they may overcome the bias but still act as though they hadn’t in order to keep their relationships healthy. After all, unless you happen to have a significant other who will accept any truthful comment without shunning you for making negative ones, it’s in your interest to act biased if you want to keep your significant other (although we might debate the health of a relationship where one partner has to lie to keep it stable).

  • Shakespeare’s Fool

    Gordon Worley,
    Why do you say only one has to lie to keep the relation stable?
    Isn’t it more likely that from time to time both will need to at least not tell truths the other would find discomforting?
    John

  • Yan Li

    If we take a game-theoretical view, people in an intimate relationship are more likely to view the game as repetitive therefore more likely to cooperate; more cooperation enhances trust; and higher trust may lead to a positive bias.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/robinhanson/ Robin Hanson

    Yan, I don’t see why trust must lead to a positive bias. I find it more plausible that a positive bias is taken as a signal of trust.