We Rock, They Suck

Psychological Bias The graphic above attempts to sum up the concepts of cognitive bias presented in How a Psychological Bias Makes Groups Feel Good About Themselves And Discredit Others

One of the strongest human motivations is to feel good about ourselves. Bolstering our own self-image helps us all feel slightly saner, more confident individuals.

We do this partly by thinking we’re a bit better looking, cleverer and more skilful than we really are. Although not absolutely everyone is an optimist, the vast majority of people do think they are above average in many areas.

Yes, it’s a cognitive bias, but it’s not so bad if it makes us feel better about ourselves.

The post goes on to explain how we play this out as a member of a social group.

One important psychological bias that helps us be more positive about our own group is called the ‘ultimate attribution error’. It’s a horrible bit of psychological jargon but here’s what it means in practical terms.

When someone from a different group to our own does something immoral, or reprehensible, or just fails in some way, we don’t bother finding excuses for them. We have a tendency to ascribe their failure to poor character or low ability.

For example, we say to ourselves: the guy from the opposition football team failed to score because he’s not that good at football. Psychologically what we’re doing here is ascribing the failure to something internal about him.

However, when someone from our own group does something bad, we work much harder to make excuses. And these excuses are of a particular type: we say it was bad luck or they didn’t really try or they were in a difficult situation. When it’s one of our own, we try our best to avoid saying it was a failure of character.

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