Cognitive Bias Mini-Blog #3 – Authority Bias!

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

Our third cognitive bias micro-blog deals with “Authority bias”!

Authority bias refers to the tendency of individuals to assume greater accuracy to the opinions of an authority figure.  People frequently tend to adopt the opinions of those they recognize as authority figures, making the assumption that they are somehow deserving of their position, often sans background information on the individual.

Many have speculated that this bias is influenced by the broad social need to obey authority.  System justification theory suggests that there is a psychological need amongst the general public to believe in the stability, justness and reliability of current social systems.  

In the squash world, we are somewhat programmed to accept the word of anyone we call “coach”.  Now, while I strongly advocate courtesy, to everyone and always, there is a strong difference between courtesy and blind acceptance that someone is an expert.  Simply because a “coach” is appointed to a position doesn’t immediately guarantee they’re experts.  They may well have been appointed by a group that doesn’t understand the sport, or more simply they may simply be starting out in their own career, and well, just not very expert yet.

The take home message is of courtesy, but questioning.  Any coach, myself included, should be prepared to explain WHY.  Why do we do this drill, why do we advocate this metabolic training, why do we ask you to use “this” foot in a given corner.  A pretty badge on your shirt doesn’t make you an expert, calling yourself “coach” doesn’t make you an expert, a capacity to rationally and simply explain complex recommendations in simple language to pupils is at least part of what makes you a expert, and a pretty good “coach”.

See you at training, bring your questions!

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