The New York Times oneline has an article titled I'm O.K., You're Biased which reviews different psychological tests of people's assessment of themselves and of others concerning fairness and bias. The results indicate that most people give themselves an above average rating for fairness (even when they cheat), and that most people give others poorer ratings for fairness (even when they don't cheat).
Author Daniel Gilbert writes, "[study subjects] strive for truth more often that we realize, and miss that mark more ofthen than they realize."
Gilbert cites an experiment where subjects had to make assessments of students' intelligence. The subjects examined one by one individual pieces of information about a particular student, all of it negative. However, if the subject liked the student, he persisted longer in looking for positive data about the student than did other subjects.
So why did I put this in my Learning category?
We humans ar driven to find meaning in our surroundings and in our experience, and we are very quick to formulate ad hoc theories about people's behavior before we have adequate information (the transition from etic to emic). The trouble is that we become very attached to our theories, and we unconscously use them as filters that prevent us from looking at information in new ways. Predudices and biases are hard to overcome, first because we don't see them in ourselves and, second, we have to reassess all the filtered information that originally brought us to accept those biases.
Which means a lot of hard and potentially embarrassing work.
Click here to read Gilbert's article.