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The Authority Bias

Posted by vince
Published on 16 September 2023

Authority Bias

Authority bias is the tendency to attribute greater accuracy to the opinion of an authority figure, regardless of their actual expertise. This bias can lead us to accept information or advice from authority figures without critically evaluating it.

There are a few reasons why we may be susceptible to authority bias. One reason is that we are often taught to respect authority figures from a young age. We are taught that our parents, teachers, and other authority figures know what is best for us, and we should follow their instructions. This can lead us to develop a habit of deferring to authority figures, even when we are adults.

Another reason for authority bias is that we often look for shortcuts to make decisions. When we are presented with a decision, we may not have the time or energy to gather all the relevant information and evaluate all the options. Instead, we may rely on the opinion of an authority figure as a shortcut.

Finally, authority bias can be caused by a desire to fit in. We often want to be seen as belonging to a group, and we may conform to the opinions of others to do so. When we are presented with an authority figure with a different opinion, we may be more likely to change our view to fit in.

Authority bias can have several negative consequences. It can lead us to make bad decisions and more susceptible to manipulation. For example, if we are too trusting of authority figures, we may be more likely to fall for scams or to vote for politicians who do not have our best interests at heart.

the authority bias

We can do a few things to reduce the impact of authority bias. One must be aware of the bias and try to resist it. Another is to gather as much information as possible about a situation before deciding. This will help us make more informed decisions and avoid relying on authority figures' opinions alone. Finally, we should be critical of the information we are presented with, even if it comes from an authority figure. We should not simply accept information at face value. We should always ask questions and evaluate the evidence carefully.

Here are some examples of authority bias:

  • A person is likelier to follow the advice of a doctor, even if the doctor is not a specialist in the field.
  • A person is likelier to believe a news article written by a well-known journalist, even if the article is not well-sourced.
  • A person is likelier to vote for a candidate endorsed by a celebrity, even if the candidate is not qualified for the position.

Authority bias is a powerful cognitive bias that can significantly impact our thoughts and behaviours. By being aware of this bias, we can take steps to reduce its impact and make better decisions.

There are many Cognitive Biases, many more than most people realise. If you want to think your way out of a mind trap, you must first realize you're already trapped. 

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