A Sociological Error


11 months ago by SeanBallard

There is this very human phenomenon that I have labelled the likeness bias.

The essence being, you project your unique human experience onto everyone else.

The example I always give is how baffling it is that some people HATE peanut butter. How can anyone possibly hate peanut butter given my love affair with peanut butter?!?!

Extrapolating out this type of opposing experiences as it pertains to food, and apply it to social preferences as well, I think can yield massive benefits, as it did for me.

I was always very shy & reserved as a kid. I did not like unsolicited attention. Rather, I HATED such attention. I also just generally did not like the process of interacting & dealing with humans, mostly ones I don't know. As such, for most of my upbringing I operated on the assumption that people had the same preferences as me.

To give an example, whenever we went out to eat at a place where I was expected to order my food, I would always solicit my mom to order for me. As I got older, my mom would push me more to do it myself, with my reluctance. In response, I would not only solicit my younger sister's help, she would actually jump at the chance to order for me. And yet, she was 4 years younger than me.

Even with such clear examples of people having opposing social preferences, I continued to treat others in the same way that *I* wanted to be treated, which is largely just to be left alone, despite the fact that there is a large set of the population that is like my younger sister, who actually prefer to engage others and to be engaged. In other words, in my effort to be nice & courteous to others by treating others the way I wanted to be treated (an offshoot of the Golden Rule) I was actually being dis-courteous to those which have opposing preferences to mine.

So, if my goal is to be courteous, then I needed to change my behavior towards others to actually achieve this goal. I did this by simply increase my conscientiousness, curiosity, and understanding of all individuals, instead of defaulting to a rather crude & fixed rule that I associated with being courteousness.

Additionally, I am exacerbating the discourteousness when being reserved and not revealing my social preferences so readily. In other words, I was not using my big boy words. By not doing this, and just yielding myself to their preferences, I am not even allowing the other party the chance to display courteousness unto me, in effect making them potentially feel bad about the interaction. So, my courteous yields the opposite effect desired!

I venture to say that this is a common problem because why wouldn't our default assumption of others to be similar to ourselves? Our own experiences are the basis upon which we measure & understand the world & others. I found that this was a critical error for me that was limiting many areas of my life. Just as I can't read others minds, they likely cannot read mind. As much as we may expect others to be capable of reading our minds, maybe by way of our body language or vibes, we should utilize the tool of God, and use our big boy words to communicate our preferences, and figure out the preferences of others.

I understand this may be obvious for some, but in the theme of this post, I think it is always useful to challenge our assumptions.

I hope this makes sense, and confers some benefits.

Thanks for reading!


-Sean Ballard