The 5 Biggest Biases That Affect Decision -Making

This isn’t an essay. Below I have copied an article from the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) on bias. Bias is a huge challenge for Disability Inclusion and this article is the most succinct articulation of key ideas I have come across. The NLI has developed a proprietary methodology – the SEEDS model – the outline of which is publicly available. I haven’t explored the cost of engaging the NLI to deliver training on the SEEDS model. Below is what is publicly available only.

There is a follow up hyperlink to a YouTube video discussion on the same theme at the end of the article and a promotion of a related podcast and a book.

The article – The 5 Biggest Biases That Affect Decision-Making

By Chris Weller

APRIL 9TH, 2019

Humans make thousands of decisions every day. However, our brains don’t give each decision equal attention—we take mental shortcuts.

To brain scientists, these shortcuts are known as “biases.” They’re neither good nor bad; they just are. They help us in certain cases and hinder us in others. For instance, an expedience bias compels us to make decisions quickly. If we’re in a burning building, that may be valuable. But it might be disadvantageous if we’re conducting a performance review.

At the NeuroLeadership Institute, we help leaders and teams mitigate the biases that negatively affect people and business decisions, so that they can be more innovative and effective. Through our research, we’ve organized more than 150 such biases into five broad categories. These five biases comprise the SEEDS Model®, the framework that underpins our solutions geared toward reducing unconscious bias.

We’ve outlined each of the five biases below.

Similarity Bias — We prefer what is like us over what is different

Similarity biases most obviously crop up in people decisions: who to hire, who to promote, who to assign to projects.

It occurs because humans are highly motivated to see themselves and those who are similar in a favorable light. We instinctively create “ingroups” and “outgroups” — boundaries between who we consider close to us and who lives on the margins. We generally have a favorable view of our ingroup but a skeptical (or negative) view of the outgroup. Hence why managers hire employees who remind them of themselves.

Overcoming a similarity bias requires actively finding common ground with people who appear different.

Expedience Bias — We prefer to act quickly rather than take time

Humans have a built-in need for certainty—to know what is going on. A downside of that need is the tendency to rush to judgment without fully considering all the facts.

Expedience biases crop up when we are reviewing employees and rely solely on one data point or recommendation. The fix is to take more time to gather a wider array of information.

Experience Bias — We take our perception to be the objective truth

We may be the stars of our own show, but other people see the world slightly differently than we do. Experience bias occurs when we fail to remember that fact. We assume our view of a given problem or situation constitutes the whole truth.

To escape the bias, we need to build in systems for others to check our thinking, share their perspectives, and helps us reframe the situation at hand.

Distance Bias — We prefer what’s closer over what’s farther away

Distance biases have become all too common in today’s globalized world. They emerge in meetings when folks in the room fail to gather input from their remote colleagues, who may be dialing in on a conference line.

The bias reflects our instinct to prioritize that which is nearby, whether in physical space, time, or other domains.

We can mitigate distance biases with systems that acknowledge important figures outside our immediate proximity, such as by calling on remote colleagues first in a meeting before discussing with the room.

Safety Bias — We protect against loss more than we seek out gain

Safety bias refers to the all-too-human tendency to avoid loss. Many studies have shown that we would prefer not to lose money even more than we’d prefer to gain money. In other words, bad is stronger than good.

Safety biases slow down decision-making and hold back healthy forms of risk-taking. One way we can mitigate the bias is by getting some distance between us and the decision—such as by imagining a past self already having made the choice successfully—to weaken the perception of loss.

What’s important to remember about the SEEDS Model® is that no one can mitigate bias alone. It takes an entire group using a common language around bias to help individuals make smarter decisions.

The original article can be found at

YouTube video: SEEDS of Change: The Path to Breaking Bias – 56:39

The NLI also has a podcast – Your Brain at Work as well as numerous other YouTube videos

David Rock, a co-founder of the NLI has a book – Your Brain at Work: Strategies For Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, And Working Smarter All Day Long. Below is a blurb about the book on Amazon.

A researcher and consultant burrows deep inside the heads of one modern two-career couple to examine how each partner processes the workday—revealing how a more nuanced understanding of the brain can allow us to better organize, prioritize, recall, and sort our daily lives.

Emily and Paul are the parents of two young children, and professionals with different careers. Emily is the newly promoted vice president of marketing at a large corporation; Paul works from home or from clients’ offices as an independent IT consultant. Their days are filled with a bewildering blizzard of emails, phone calls, more emails, meetings, projects, proposals, and plans. Just staying ahead of the storm has become a seemingly insurmountable task.

In Your Brain at Work, Dr. David Rock goes inside Emily and Paul’s brains to see how they function as each attempts to sort, prioritize, organize, and act on the vast quantities of information they receive in one typical day. Dr. Rock is an expert on how the brain functions in a work setting. By analyzing what is going on in their heads, he offers solutions Emily and Paul (and all of us) can use to survive and thrive in today’s hyperbusy work environment—and still feel energized and accomplished at the end of the day.

In Your Brain at Work, Dr. Rock explores issues such as:

  • why our brains feel so taxed, and how to maximize our mental resources
  • why it’s so hard to focus, and how to better manage distractions
  • how to maximize the chance of finding insights to solve seemingly insurmountable problems
  • how to keep your cool in any situation, so that you can make the best decisions possible
  • how to collaborate more effectively with others
  • why providing feedback is so difficult, and how to make it easier
  • how to be more effective at changing other people’s behaviour
  • and much more.

I have just started reading/listening to the book. It struck me as interesting because of the pressure of work many staff with disability are experiencing. I will write a blog essay when I am finished.

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