Have you ever had a situation where you felt like you were not getting the credit you deserve for your contributions?
Or have you ever wondered how other people seem to not understand how good an idea that you had was?
Then you might be suffering from a cognitive bias known as the Egocentric Bias.
What is the Egocentric Bias?
Egocentric bias is the tendency for people to rely too heavily on one’s own perspective, and/or have a higher opinion of oneself than is actually true.
Most people know more about themselves than they know about others. This is true partially because people tend to pay more attention to themselves than to others and in part because people have privileged access to information about themselves (e.g., private thoughts, emotions) that is unavailable to others. It is also often easier to remember examples of where you personally did something, since these will have left an internal personal experience (emotional, physical etc) which you do not see in others.
As a result, many people think that other people have the same views and opinions as they do on a subject, without asking or checking.
Research into this bias began after it was identified around 1977 when researchers were finding a “false consensus effect” in groups. This results in people thinking that their views are held by a higher proportion of other people than actually do in reality, and other studies from 1994 back up this research.
One of the classic pieces of research into the topic asks people in a couple or group to estimate what their own personal contribution was to something happening. One of the most influential research papers on the topic from 1979 asked 37 married couples to individually estimate what proportion they contributed to both positive parts of the relationship (how much of the total housework they did) and negative aspects (how many of the arguments they caused).
In both cases, when the total percentages of both partners where summed, the total came out to more than 100%.
In general, people think they contribute more than their partner, to both the good and bad aspects. And their partner thinks the same thing.
There was another study in 1989 which found that some partners will overstate how much of a positive contribution their partner makes though.
A similar finding was found when looking at groups, asking what percentage of the total work they completed as an individual. It almost always comes out to more than 100%.
This may be why couples and groups have such problems understanding why another person does not appear to respect their contribution, and leads to frustration.
Additionally, bias has also shown to be one of the reasons why people suffer from the spotlight effect, where they think other people notice their issues more than actually happens in reality.
Impact of the Egocentric Bias on Innovation and Creativity
Many creative people are confused when they produce something they are proud of, and nobody else seems to care.
Or they are confused why potential customers are not flocking to them after they have produced something.
Just because you build it, it does not mean that they will come.
And in many cases, customers will not be experiencing the challenge which the innovation team thought of, and therefore have no desire for the solution, leading to its failure in the market.
This is why it is always so important to validate the idea and solution with other people, and not validate what you think of or feel about the idea.
Fortunately, it is possible to reduce the impact of the Egocentric Bias.
A 1983 study showed this to be possible through making people aware of the bias before making judgements on fairness or contributions.
So if you ever feel like other people “just don’t get it” or are not contributing as much as they should, first ask yourself if you might be more focused on what you think than on what is really happening.
Creativity & Innovation expert: I help individuals and companies build their creativity and innovation capabilities, so you can develop the next breakthrough idea which customers love. Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder / CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting. Coach / Speaker / Author / TEDx Speaker / Voted as one of the most influential innovation bloggers.