THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 24 August 2020 Bias blind spot (Financial Express)

Bias blind spot (Financial Express)

Mains Paper 4:Ethics 
Prelims level: Cognitive biases
Mains level: Ethics and human interface 


  • As part of human we all have some form of unconscious bias. But when we observe our understanding of this, we get blinded to our own nurtured biases. 
  • It is not easy for us to accept about our biases. It is like a blind spot. 
  • Most people have no idea of how biased they actually are. But they feel that most people around them are more biased than they themselves are.

Fail to recognise cognitive biases:

  • We all fail to notice our own cognitive biases. 
  • The fact is we all may be drawn to a particular style or way of working without being aware of it. 
  • For instance, we tend to get friendly with people who match our own ways of seeing the world and are unaware we are doing so. 
  • It would be incorrect to say that we would find an unbiased person easily … colour, class, race, gender, nepotism all are biases that are going on and on because of the bias blind spot. 
  • We are unaware of our own actual degree of bias. The more we feel that we are less biased than others, the less we are clear of our own understanding.

Example of a bias blind spot: 

  • In the US, most citizens argue about gun control; people are convinced that more guns lead to more violence. 
  • On the other hand, people buy guns to protect themselves because they are convinced that they are more likely to be harmed if they don’t have guns, so they buy and store guns. 
  • Don’t we always make a decision and interpret it with data to justify? We see patterns based on our past experiences, and connect the dots at an almost innate level.

Another example: 

  • When physicians receive gifts from pharmaceutical companies, they tell others that these gifts do not affect their decisions about what medicine to prescribe because they have no memory of gifts biasing their prescription. 
  • Nevertheless, if you ask them whether a gift might unconsciously bias the decisions of other physicians, most will agree that other physicians are unconsciously biased by gifts, while continuing to believe that their own decisions are not.
  • Our five senses supply us with incredible amounts of data constantly. It is unfeasible for the human brain to process all the information received as it is too huge. 

Developing biases:

  • To make our lives easier, our brains are programmed to take shortcuts when interpreting data. We subconsciously develop a set of rules that we plug into unconsciously that allow us to make immediate decisions and judgements. 
  • We develop our biases through genetics, through education, through the work we do, through the people we interact with, the culture we grow up in, our childhood experience, our friends, our teachers, the way we are brought up, etc. 
  • The best part is that our biases don’t always serve to be right. In the modern world, our inherent biases make our lives complicated. Our blind spots are visible to others, but we don’t see them.
  • The bias blind spot can be extremely problematic; when we operate from within our blind spot, we are more likely to reject inputs of others, including experts in a particular area. 

Who has been the biggest mass murderer in history? 

  • Most people probably assume that the answer is Adolf Hitler, architect of the Holocaust. Others might guess Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who may indeed have managed to kill even more innocent people than Hitler did, but both Hitler and Stalin were outdone by Mao. 
  • His Great Leap Forward policy led to deaths of up to 45 million people, easily making it the biggest episode of mass murder ever recorded. 


  • The fact is that communists have a bias blind spot in their basic thinking; the rule by communist parties often leads to totalitarianism, political repression, restrictions of human rights, poor economic performance, and cultural and artistic censorship. 
  • If not checked in time, a bias blind spot can get dangerous beyond the control of any kind.
  • When we operate from within our blind spot, we are more likely to reject inputs of others, including of experts.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1)With reference to the SalivaDirect, consider the following statements:

1. It was developed by a team from the Yale School of Public Health.
2. It has high sensitivity and can detect the virus even when the number of virus copies in the saliva sample is as low as 6-12 copies per microlitre.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C

Mains Questions:

Q.1)What do you mean by the cognitive bias? How biases make our lives complex?  Explain with examples.