Exploring Preferences for ‘Blinding’ One’s Own Judgment

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2020

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I investigate people's degree of preference for "blinding" in decision-making: purposefully restricting the information one sees in order to try to form a more accurate evaluation. For example, when grading her students’ papers, a professor might choose to "blind" herself to students’ names by anonymizing them, and thus evaluate the papers on content alone. I propose a theoretical framework of individual-level blinding preferences, outlining various factors that may drive evaluators’ choices to see or blind themselves to potentially biasing information in an impending evaluation. Next, I discuss 8 studies (N = 5,350) and associated replications (N = 3,720) that (a) explore individuals’ preferences for blinding and outline consequences for bias, (b) test the mechanisms driving blinding decisions proposed in my theoretical framework, and (c) explore the efficacy of multiple interventions to encourage a choice to blind one’s judgment. I find that people often choose to see potentially biasing information rather than be blind to it, even though they acknowledge they should be blind and that seeing such information will likely bias their evaluations. I also find that interventions that facilitate deliberative reflection before a blinding choice is made can encourage a choice to be blind. I discuss contributions of these studies to research on mental contamination, inequality reduction in organizations, and social perception, as well as implications of these studies for groups concerned with members’ decision bias.

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Fath, Sean (2020). Exploring Preferences for ‘Blinding’ One’s Own Judgment. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20885.

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