Friday, October 3, 2014

Self-serving Bias

By default, we protect our ego. Our image of ourselves is shielded from the dissonance of conflicting ideas by the lies we unconsciously tell ourselves.

Curiously, research has shown that the majority of people think themselves above average in many categories. But clearly, most people cannot be above average, and plenty of people fall prey to cons and deceits every day. "I'm not the sort of person who would..." join a cult and follow a leader mindlessly, join a ponzi scheme, etc., "I'm smart. In fact, I'm smarter than average."

This tendency to think of ourselves as above average is known as illusory superiority, and it is yet another cognitive bias that we employ to rationalize our decisions. I personally think it is largely responsible for those who remain in cults, bad situations, abusive relationships, etc. We tell ourselves, "I'm not the sort of person who would would stay in an abusive situation, so it really can't be that bad," and we dismiss any contradictory evidence. We do this without realizing it to protect our ego and remain consistent in our self-image.

Working in cahoots with this illusory superiority is the self-serving bias. It is ever-present to protect our idea of ourselves as a good person, a smart person, and in my case, a sacrificial, dedicated Christian. Combine this with the availability of all the information I was bombarded with about how noble the cause, how unselfish my motivation, and how correct my life-choice, and my narrative had plenty of confirming evidence on which to feed.

In fact, I had plenty of "good reasons" to continue "fighting the good fight of faith as a loyal follower of Jesus."

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