A Proposed Common Framework of Belief-Consistent Information Processing for a Set of Biases

A Proposed Common Framework of Belief-Consistent Information Processing for a Set of Biases

Aileen Oeberst, Roland Imhoff

Toward Parsimony in Bias Research: A Proposed Common Framework of Belief-Consistent Information Processing for a Set of Biases

Aileen Oeberst, Roland Imhoff. 2023. (View Paper → )

One of the essential insights from psychological research is that people’s information processing is often biased. By now, a number of different biases have been identified and empirically demonstrated. Unfortunately, however, these biases have often been examined in separate lines of research, thereby precluding the recognition of shared principles. Here we argue that several—so far mostly unrelated—biases (e.g., bias blind spot, hostile media bias, egocentric/ethnocentric bias, outcome bias) can be traced back to the combination of a fundamental prior belief and humans’ tendency toward belief-consistent information processing. What varies between different biases is essentially the specific belief that guides information processing. More importantly, we propose that different biases even share the same underlying belief and differ only in the specific outcome of information processing that is assessed (i.e., the dependent variable), thus tapping into different manifestations of the same latent information processing. In other words, we propose for discussion a model that suffices to explain several different biases. We thereby suggest a more parsimonious approach compared with current theoretical explanations of these biases. We also generate novel hypotheses that follow directly from the integrative nature of our perspective.

The taxonomy of biases just got a lot more organised. The fundamental beliefs resonate with me because they all seem to be evolutionarily beneficial. I’m interested to see if future research will verify or disprove.

Fundamental belief
Brief description
My experience is a reasonable reference.
Spotlight effect
Overestimating the extent to which (an aspect of) oneself is noticed by others
Illusion of transparency
Overestimating the extent to which one’s own inner states are noticed by others
Illusory transparency of intention
Overestimating the extent to which an intention behind an ambiguous utterance (that is clear to oneself) is clear to others
False consensus
Overestimation of the extent to which one’s opinions, beliefs, etc., are shared
Social projection
Tendency to judge others as similar to oneself
I make correct assessments of the world.
Bias blind spot
Being convinced that mainly others succumb to biased information processing
Hostile media bias
Partisans perceiving media reports as biased toward the other side
I am good.
Better-than-average effect
Overestimating one’s performance in relation to the performance of others
Self-serving bias
Attributing one’s failures externally but one’s successes internally
My group is a reasonable reference.
Ethnocentric bias
Giving precedence to one’s own group (not preference)
In-group projection
Perceiving one’s group (vs. other groups) as more typical of a shared superordinate identity
My group (members) is (are) good.
In-group bias/partisan bias
Seeing one’s own group in a more favorable light than other groups (e.g., morally superior, less responsible for harm)
Ultimate attribution error
External (vs. internal) attribution for negative (vs. positive) behaviors of in-group members; reverse pattern for out-group members
Linguistic intergroup bias
Using more abstract (vs. concrete) words when describing positive (vs. negative) behavior of in-group members and the reverse pattern for out-group members
Intergroup sensitivity effect
Criticisms evaluated less defensively when made by an in-group (vs. out-group) member
People’s attributes (not context) shape outcomes.
Fundamental attribution error/correspondence bias
Preference for dispositional (vs. situational) attribution with regard to others
Outcome bias
Evaluation of the quality of a decision as a function of the outcome (valence)