While riding a bicycle, we are prone to mistake a tailwind assisting us for our superior muscular ability.
The aptly named self-serving bias is a cognitive bias that causes people to attribute their success to their intrinsic ability rather than advantageous environmental factors. This bias might just be at the bedrock of the racist narrative that white European people were inherently smarter than the rest of the world.
Jared Diamond invested decades of his life to point this out. His seminal book, Guns, germs and steel, sets out to prove that European science and technology was the result of differences in the environment rather than people’s innate abilities. It was this head start, rather than innate ability that helped European nations colonize other nations that were much larger than their own.
If there is one cognitive bias that is worth paying attention to, it is the self-serving bias, given how it can lead to prejudice without our conscious knowledge.
It is essential that every once in a while, we pause and count our tailwinds.
Inspiration: Guns, germs and steel – Jared Diamond