Attribution Bias

As conflict resolvers, we are suppose to notice the things that others can not because we are trained to do so. We are also trained in knowing the terms of certain traits, characteristics and actions. Knowing these terms does not make one smarter than the other, or display a sense of superior mediator skills when compared to others but rather I look at it as an additional tool in the mediator's toolbox.

Knowing these terms and also being able to identify them when being displayed in 'real time' is crucial as a conflict resolver. Why? One of the first tasks we are faced with is diagnosing the conflict. When looking at the circle of conflict [read more here], understanding terms such as attribution bias can help you understand the people involved and the actions they have taken.

According to Wikipedia, attribution bias is defined as a cognitive bias that affects the way we determine who or what was responsible for an event or action. Types of these biases include:

Actor-observer bias
When you do something, it is because of the circumstances of the situation but when someone else does it, it is because of their disposition.

False Consensus Effect
Believing everyone else thinks the same way they do.

Incompatiblity Bias
Assuming your interests are are not compatible with the other party.

Sinister Bias
Thinking someone acted a certain way to purposely have a negative impact on you.

You can read about many more of them [here] and read all about the cognitive biases [here].

So you might be asking again, why bother? I am not suggesting when mediating an issue between two parties, if you see one person displaying the actor-observer bias that you call them out on it. What I think can help is by recognizing what it is that they are doing will allow you to properly decide on a method that can assist the party to move away from that bias and move in a positive direction.
This short posting by no means is intend to be a lesson on attribution biases and cognitive bias. If this has sparked your interested, I suggest researching articles and papers to gain further insight at such sites like Beyond Intractability and CRINFO.

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