We all like to think we are clever enough to overcome biases in our environment but research is consistently showing that we may be smart but we aren’t that smart! A new piece of research from Princeton University showed that even when people were told that what they were about to see could create a bias, they were still convinced that they wouldn’t be affected. Guess what….they were!
In two experiments, one in lab and one online, participants were shown 80 paintings. Participants were asked to rate the artistic merit of each on a 1-9 scale. Half the participants were told nothing about the artists. The other half were told that they would see the artist’s name before the picture with some paintings by an unknown painter and others by famous painters. They were told that this could create bias as people may rate the merit of the paintings by the famous artist more highly. Participants agreed that the format lent itself to bias but would not affect their judgement. In reality, it did.
They rated the merit of paintings attributed to great artists higher than those works purportedly created by unknowns and said that they were objective in their rating. On the other hand, those who did not see the alleged names of the artists rated the artistic merit of the two groups of paintings the same.
Implications of this in the real world could be the court system where the juror who is certain he or she won’t take into account testimony ruled inadmissible may, in fact, be swayed by it.