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Registered users only: Download as a PDF here.MENTAL ERRORS VERSUS GOOD DECISIONS

Have you ever made a decision you knew was unwise but went  with it anyway? Sometimes we make irrational and inconsistent decisions. Even Paul said: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19). Research suggests there are several common mental errors called ‘cognitive biases’ that veer us away from making good decisions. Let’s look at a key one called ‘in-group bias’.

 

WHAT IT IS

In-group bias is when we unfairly favour those who belong to our group, crowd, tribe or community. As individuals we generally presume that we are impartial, fair and balanced, but we often automatically favour those who are most like us; those who share our values, appearance, background or networks. This often manifests as being exclusive to those  outside the  group. At  best it is rude and cliquey, and at worst it is favouritism, racism or serious prejudice and intolerance.

 

THE CHALLENGE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

Favouring people like ourselves is understandably the foundation of most communities across the world. Finding your place in

a tribe or community is integral to adolescence. It is linked to identity formation in our teenage years, so we can’t be too hard  on young people for wanting to fit in. However, while having something in common does bring us together, the relief and importance of finding our own comfort zone can easily spill over into making others unwelcome or protecting what we have found from the threat of change posed by newcomers or outsiders.

We can become resistant to outside ideas, which is a precursor  to becoming a sect. Young people need to find the right balance between their own needs and the simple truth that others’ needs and feelings are just as important.

The kind of community Jesus encourages us to  form  and invest in spans across these boundaries. Did he tell us to only love people like us? A community of people like ourselves is easy to be part of. Welcoming and loving people of different faiths, beliefs, values, backgrounds, appearance, abilities and so on is radical.

 

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR MENTEE

Work through these questions together, encouraging them to be as honest as they can:

 

  • What are the consequences of favouring people with similar ideas and values to yourself?
  • How guilty are you of this on a scale of one to ten?
  • What is the best way of challenging this behaviour in groups you are a part of?
  • What is the best way to support those who are unfairly treated?
  • What things might put you off trying to change or stop this from happening?