Bias Perception and the Downward Spiral

There is an interesting post at the Law and Mind blog on a relational dynamic that sounds familiar and relevant to the work of transforming education and increasing equity. Here are the basic steps of the downward spiral:

  • We all tend to have a ‘bias blind spot’  – we perceive others as susceptible to biases but perceive ourselves as fair and objective.
  • When we disagree or are in conflict with others, our tendency to see others as biased increases and gains energy
  • This leads to more competitive and aggressive action, as opposed to seeking compromise or reconciliation.
  • The aggressive behaviors on both sides reinforce the perceptions that the other side is biased. The conflict gets worse, spirals downward, the knives come out.

They offer some very helpful advice for avoiding the spiral.

  1. Non-counter-arguing listening – “Counter-arguing listening, which the authors suggest most people engage in, involves thinking about ways in which one’s own position is superior and preparing counterarguments while an opponent is speaking.” Hmm, I never do that! No, I do.  Instead, they suggest conscious efforts to listen more deeply. At the Project, we have tools for making this more likely to succeed than just a conscious effort.
  2. Introspective education – “This strategy works to induce individuals to see themselves as less objective.  By recognizing their own capacity for bias, individuals might be better equipped to resolve their conflicts peacefully.”  As an example, they suggest taking the Harvard Implicit Bias test – good one.
  3. Distancing – Gaining temporal or physical distance from the conflict situation can encourage a broader perspective that reduces bias perception. We call this “creating a space” for building relationships across difference.

Sound familiar? The over 1,000 people who have attended National Equity Project institutes will recognize these perspectives.   School change, corporate culture, legal conflict, there are a lot of the same leadership and growth issues in many spheres.  We keep finding great insight in the wider world of… org development? Innovation? Adaptive leadership? Social psychology? Is there one field that encompasses all this and the rest that goes with it?

Thank you to the Situationist for this link.

This entry was posted in Constructivist Listening, Relationships. Bookmark the permalink.

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