Two Meanings of ‘Overcoming Bias’ – For One: Focus is Fundamental. For Second: ?

‘Overcoming Bias’ has two meanings.

First: Right Now, as in ‘You have a mistaken belief, caused by a cognitive bias you don’t know you have, and I will cause you to correct that belief by pointing out the cognitive bias which caused it.’

Almost always, these claims are disguised injunctions to change your Focus

Usually to Expand your Focus:

  • Availability Bias – Expand your Focus to include information besides the striking and vivid information that is carrying you away;
  • Confirmation Bias – Expand your  Focus to include information that lessens  the force of the information (you cherish) that confirms your existing belief;
  • Disconfirmation Bias – Expand your Focus to include information that heightens the force of information (you despise)  that is inconsistent with your existing belief;
  • Fundamental Attribution Error –Expand focus to see Situations as possible causes of others’ behavior, besides the Personality characteristics you are using now;
  • Status Quo Bias – Expand to see alternatives besides the status quo
  • De`formation Professionelle – Expand beyond the conventions of your own profession:
  • Illusion of Control – Expand to see that you may not be able to influence the outcomes of interest;

And maybe 15 others (of 67), but who’s counting?

Rarely an injunction to Narrow your Focus:
Information Bias – Narrow your Focus to seek only information that can affect action.

Second meaning of ‘Overcoming Bias’: In the Future, as in ‘How can I avoid being influenced by my own (not yet known to me ) biases in the future?’
        The only effective way I have found is to invite criticism of my ideas by others – present my ideas in seminars, send them to journals for blind reviewers, bring up with colleagues at lunch, on blogs, etc — because I am blind to the biases that I have, by definition:  if I were not blind to them I wouldn’t ‘have’ them. Of course, this only works if I am free of the Bias Blind Spot Bias. (Some biases I can prevent by avoiding the occasion of bias, as by not gambling to forestall the probability biases.)

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  • As science fiction writer David Brin‘s aphorism goes, “CITOKATE: Criticism is the only known antidote to error.”

  • Hopefully Anonymous

    Really great post, Bruce. I’m surprised there aren’t more responses 7 1/3 hours later. I don’t much else to add at this point besides kudos for a substantial contribution to the blog.

  • With all of that expanding, wouldn’t the analogy be more apt if one were to work something in about a panoramic view?

    Which of course would lead the sarcastic to quote Chesterton’s jibe about an open mind being great as long as it eventually closed on something.

    All kidding aside I do see the point, but I prefer the basics of formal logic. The principles of identity, the excluded middle, sufficient reason, and contradiction. Much simpler than 67 expansions of vision.

  • TGGP

    I’m still waiting for studies done on deformation professionelle. I won’t countenance the idea until one is published under peer review, and I refuse to consider evidence other than that conventionally favored by those in the academic profession until I am convinced it is a cognitive bias to do so!

  • Bruce your “only effective way I have found” data point would be more informative if we knew the other ways you have tried. Many other ways have been suggested on this blog, for example; did you try those?

  • Thank you, Hopefully Anonymous, for your kind words, Ray G. and TGGP for your jokes, and Doug S. for the acronym.

    Robin, thanks for your suggestion, which has sent me on a search through old posts, but without much luck yet.

    I am beginning to think we may have different criteria for applicability of techniques of preventing myself being biased, could you help me by pointing me toward 3 or 4 examples of what you have in mind, of ways of resisting my future biases, that have been proposed on this blog (or anywhere)?