Self-centered bias: to believe that the world revolves around us

We are all protagonists of the film of our life, but we must not fall into the error of thinking that the world is a simple background, a scenario that must change according to our desires and needs. This thought, although tempting and very common, is the source of our worst frustrations, disappointments and anger because it leads us to nurture unreal expectations. We must be aware that we do not see the world as it is, but as we are. And we must also be aware that we all have, some more and some less, an egocentric bias.

What is the egocentric bias?
In psychology, the tendency to interpret everything that happens to us in a personal way, based on the intensity with which it affects us, is called “egocentric bias”.

The egocentric bias helps us maintain a coherent narrative of the events of our life. The more we personalize experiences, the more relevant they are to us and, therefore, easier to remember. These memories end up becoming the basis of our identity. So, in a way, the egocentric bias would be the glue that allows us to hold together the different pieces of our life.

However, we must keep in mind that egocentric bias is nothing but an adaptive illusion. Often it leads us to misinterpret what happens, makes us take things too much to heart and waste precious emotional energy that is consumed in the form of frustration and anger.

How does egocentric bias work?
A study conducted at the Tohoku Women’s Junior College shows how self-centered bias works. Psychologists asked the participants to evaluate a series of behaviors of their own and others as just or unjust.

It is interesting to note that people tended to evaluate the behavior of others as more unfair and their behavior as fair. This reveals that we tend to attribute positive successes and behaviors to ourselves and to project onto other failures and negative behaviors.

It also reveals that when we formulate judgments, we are very partial. We have no problem understanding our motivations and turning them into excuses for our decisions and behavior, but we have difficulty putting ourselves in the shoes of others.

Another very interesting study conducted at the University of Shenzhen deepened the mechanisms of egocentric bias in the brain. These neuroscientists demonstrated that the activation of the thalamus can predict how intense our egocentric bias will be.

The thalamus is found deep in the brain and is a center of synaptic integration in which a first elaboration of the sensory signals occurs before they continue their journey towards the cerebral cortex.

In practice, this structure is responsible for screening insignificant signals and directing important sensory impulses to the areas of the somatosensory cortex and other areas of the brain, in turn determining the intensity and importance of these stimuli. Therefore, the thalamus plays a key role in directing our attention towards the stimuli that we consider relevant.

This means that, when we are victims of self-centered bias, we prefer information and stimuli that are not really that important, just because we believe they are connected to us and influence us in some way. But that self-centered vision can deceive us, making us overlook the information that could be relevant, because the thalamus would catalog them as irrelevant or secondary.

To think that everyone is watching us
In fact, one of the main consequences of self-centered bias is to believe that everyone is watching us. If we live as if we were the protagonists of the film, we will almost automatically assume that everyone is watching us. So we make the mistake of thinking that, since we are the center of our universe, we are also the center of the universe of others.

Consequently, when we relate to others, we think less of them and more of ourselves. In certain circumstances, this attitude can become so intense that it almost leads to “schizophrenic behavior”, in the sense that we stop reacting to what happens to respond to the mental images we have built. It is a totally maladaptive behavior that does not take into account reality.

A study developed at Cornell University, for example, showed how it works. The psychologists asked the participants to wear a shirt with an embarrassing image and move casually on the university campus. So they had to estimate how many people had noticed it. Everyone estimated they had attracted a lot of attention, but in most cases they went unnoticed.

This experiment shows us that every person is so convinced that he is at the center of attention that little others notice.

This experiment shows us that every person is so convinced that he is at the center of attention that little others notice.

How does self-centered bias affect you?
“A hyper-sized unconscious is always egocentric. Consciousness can do nothing but preserve its existence. He is unable to learn from the past, unable to understand the present events and unable to project himself correctly into the future, “wrote Carl Gustav Jung.

Focusing too much on ourselves, forgetting that we are part of the world and assuming our opinions as absolute and immutable truths, is a sign of immaturity and insecurity that causes more harm than good.

1. It prevents us from taking advantage of the differences to grow. This cognitive bias leads us to trust our viewpoint and way of seeing the world too much, thinking that they are the only ones possible. This leads us to ignore others and underestimate their opinions, which in many cases can enrich us.

2. Add further pressure. Having a self-centered bias also adds further pressure because we worry too much about the image we project. That pressure leads us to make more mistakes and makes us irritable.

3. It takes us away from the world. To better connect and take advantage of what the world offers you, you must first learn to calm your ego. Being too focused on ourselves prevents us from seeing situations clearly and addressing them in an adaptive way.

How to overcome the egocentric bias?
The first step to overcome the egocentric bias is to assume that we all suffer, to a greater or lesser extent. No one escapes his influence. Therefore, we must begin by asking ourselves how far we are reacting to the situation and to what extent instead we let ourselves be carried away by our desires, expectations and / or emotions.

It is also essential to take a psychological distance from what happens to us to reduce the effect of the egocentric bias. There is a very interesting technique which consists in imagining that the mind contains more than one “I”. It involves the separation, for example, of the suffering self from the remote self.

It is a sort of splitting that helps us improve our mood and react better to events, moving the center of attention from the inside to the outside. Through this exercise we give psychological oxygen to our “suffering I”, so that we can see the negative experience with other eyes, in a more realistic and detached way.

Another step to overcome the egocentric bias is to worry a little less about the image we project. It is a question of lowering our guard so that we can relate to others in a more authentic way. This will automatically generate an effect of emotional reciprocity; that is, those around us will relax and open up, so that the attention given previously to our ego will become a sort of reflector, expansive and shared that allows us to connect from our essence.

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