Just World Bias and Inequality

Discussions of inequality are pervaded by the Just World Bias — the tendency for people to  believe that the world is or ought to be ‘just’ and people should get what they deserve. But often equality for some entails inequality for others, like hanging lead weights on ballerinas.

But the serious general problem for overcoming cognitive bias is the cases where the biases come in opposed pairs, with an example being the Just World Bias versus what I’ll call the Perverse World Bias (or Murphy’s bias): ‘If I take my umbrella it’s sure to be fine, but if I don’t, it’s sure to rain,’ or ‘No good deed goes unpunished,’ etc.

Many proverbs have a similar problem, as in ‘Look before you leap’ versus ‘He who hesitates is lost.’ Proverb pairs with this property are useless as guides to action, though handy for hindsight.

Opposed pairs of biases have a similar shortcoming — because they cover all the ground, they end up covering none at all, and throw us back on ‘It depends’ which is where we started anyway.

How many opposed pairs of cognitive biases are there?

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