Week 1: Station 1, Flash Point 1 – Expectation Bias

Station 1 – Situational Awareness/Barriers

Expectation Bias occurs when we incorrectly identify a situation or predict the results of our actions based on our expectations instead of reality. In short, we see what we expect to see (or hear, feel, etc.), instead of what is actually there. This is often called the “expert’s curse,” as it often occurs to highly experienced people while practicing familiar tasks. If you’ve ever found yourself starting with a conclusion, then selectively searching for evidence to support it while disregarding facts that support a different conclusion, you’ve been guilty of Expectation Bias.

Why Expectation Bias is Dangerous:

  • We can become stuck in a false model based on past experiences
  • It can cause us to reject new/unfamiliar (but correct) information as irrelevant
  • Teamwork can be compromised if we rigidly stick to our false perceptions and ignore input from teammates
  • Our misperception of reality can extend beyond one specific situation and affect our judgment over much longer periods of time

What to do about Expectation Bias:

  • Think like a beginner – don’t allow routine habits or familiar situations to lull you into “auto pilot”
  • Increase your awareness by examining your routine tasks for Expectation Bias
  • Remember to ask: “What might be different than I think it is?”

Case Study Reference for this week’s Flash Point on Expectation Bias:


If you do Just One Thing

Don’t allow familiarity with a task to breed complacency for its risks.

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