By Diya Barmecha

While talking to the crowd, have you ever wondered that the audience can see that you are nervous? Or when you did something embarrassing, did you start thinking about how likely it is that others will remember it and overestimate this? Or even overestimate the amount of work you have contributed to the group project?

These things happen to all of us in different parts of our life and there is a psychological way to understand what is happening here. This is called the egocentric bias and it causes someone to only remember themselves as the key player in a past event even when their role can be a minor one. It can cause someone to assume that all of one’s colleagues or friends will share their political and social beliefs because they are so focused on those beliefs that it is hard for one to imagine things differently. This bias makes us have the tendency to rely very heavily on our own perspective than reality. It’s one of the psychological happenings to satisfy one’s ego. Its main cause is because we believe everyone will remember the same story from the same perspective as you. What you see from your eyes becomes your perspective. This may not be what others see from their eyes. This comes at no fault one any one individual being nor is it good or bad.

Researchers were curious about the concept of egocentric bias,  so they asked the authors of multi-authored papers to say what percentage of the paper they contributed. When they added up all these percentages, it always reached an average of 140% and not 100%. A similar instance happens when couples are asked how much of the housework they each do. The addition of both their perspectives percentages is always over 100%. Many people think that the cause for this is because people want to appear more helpful and smart than they are. But that is not the cause because when asked about who starts the fight most often the same thing happens. The collection of their percentages was over 100%.  To explain this easily, you experience and see vividly what you did and not so much of what another person does.

  A recent podcast shows us a real example of the above. Vanessa Bohns, a graduate student from Columbia University wanted to ask strangers at a New York station to fill out a questionnaire and she expected people to say something terrible and not fill it out. However, to her surprise many people replied saying yes. This raised a red flash for them as they expected more people to refuse than actually say yes. In this research, the conductors were so consumed by their perspective that they weren’t able to see things from another person’s perspective. Vanessa Bohns was now very curious about this bias and decided to conduct another study. She asked volunteers how many people they would have to gather money from to meet their fundraising goals. The volunteers all estimated around 200 people. However, all of them asked under 100 people and were able to meet their goal. The egocentric bias of the volunteers caused them to focus mainly on their anxieties and they weren’t able to think of what it might have felt to be a person being asked for money. 

There are many biases like the above. The illusion of transparency causes people to think that their emotions are more important than others because of the egocentric bias. Whereas the spotlight effect is when people overestimate the degree to which they are noticed by others which also occurs due to the egocentric bias.  When we fail to account that some people don’t know the same things as we do it’s called the curse of knowledge and is caused also due to the egocentric bias.

Although we can’t control what’s happening in our cognitive mind, we can definitely ask ourselves two times before we make an assumption about how others view ourselves. This realization can help us gain confidence while public speaking or give us solace when we think we have embarrassed ourselves. 

Diya Barmecha is a current 11th-grader who loves to inspire. She loves to read and discover new genres of books. She enjoys reading news articles when they concern her interests. She hopes to find a medium of expression by the Ascent.