Why we experience the zero-sum bias - Deepstash

Why we experience the zero-sum bias

  • Mistaken belief in limited resources: assumeing that a certain resource is more limited than is actually the case.
  • Mistaken belief in trade-off consistency: assuming that there must be a tradeoff between the various advantages and disadvantages of each option, so that the options must be balanced overall.
  • Common correlations: certain types of tradeoffs or problems tend to be frequently correlated with each other, which can cause people to assume that they exist even in situations where they don’t.
  • Previous experience: people mistakenly assume that a certain situation is zero-sum because they were exposed to similar situations in the past that were in fact zero-sum. 

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MORE IDEAS FROM The Zero-Sum Bias: When People Think that Everything is a Competition

Examples of the zero-sum bias
  • People sometimes view membership in social groups as being zero-sum: belonging to one social group excludes you from being a member of a different group.
  • People sometimes view gender hierarchies in the workplace as being zero-sum, which can cause them to be more opposed to gender-fair policies.
  • People sometimes believe that there is an inherent zero-sum competition between different ethnic groups, which can cause them to develop negative attitudes towards immigrants.
  • People sometimes view racism as a zero-sum game, meaning that they believe that a decrease in racism against one group will be balanced by an increase in racism toward other groups.

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To reduce the degree to which you experience the zero-sum bias, you need to identify cases where you assume that a certain situation is zero-sum, and then assess the situation rationally in order to identify whether it is actually zero-sum, which you can do, for example, by asking yourself whether a resource under consideration is truly limited.

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A cognitive bias that causes people to mistakenly believe that one party’s gains are directly balanced by other parties’ losses.

This bias encourages belief in an antagonistic nature of social relationships

For example, the zero-sum bias can cause people to think that there is competition for a resource that they feel is limited, in situations where the resource in question is actually unlimited and freely available.

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It can generally be said to affect people on two scales:

  • Individual scale. It causes people to mistakenly assume that there is intra-group competition for a certain resource, between them and other members.
  • Group scale. It causes people to mistakenly assume that there is inter-group competition for a certain resource, between their group and other groups.

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RELATED IDEA

The egocentric bias

It is a cognitive bias that causes people to rely too much on their own point of view when they examine or remember events in their life.

This means that people tend to either underestimate how different other people’s viewpoint is from their own, or to ignore other people’s viewpoint entirely.

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The Just-World Hypothesis

Is a cognitive bias that causes us to assume that people’s actions always lead to fair consequences, meaning that those who do good are eventually rewarded, while those who do evil are eventually punished. Shortly, is the belief that everyone gets what they deserve.

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It's a cognitive bias that causes people to think or act in a certain manner because they believe that other people are doing the same.

For example, the bandwagon effect might cause someone to adopt a certain political ideology, simply because influential people in their social circle have adopted the same ideology.

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