Volume XXI, Number 8 (Issue 1012) February 20, 2022
The Affinity Bias
af-fin-i-ty, (n), a sympathy marked by community of interest; an attraction to or liking for something; an attractive force between substances or particles that causes them to enter into and remain in chemical combination; a likeness based on relationship or causal connection; a relationship between biological groups involving resemblance in structural plan and indicating a common origin.
That lengthy definition is courtesy of Merriam-Webster. While there is much there, it is not Webster’ full definition. I ended as I did because the two sections highlighted in blue are the true focus of today’s missive – The Affinity Bias. For years I have been encountering one example after another of groups being drawn together based largely on the members’ similarities be it their shared backgrounds, gender, age, social circle, etc. And why not? When a group is homogeneous it dramatically lessens the frequency as well as the magnitude of conflict since differences are few and far between. The draw of that dynamic is so strong that groups are incredibly predisposed to add to their numbers as well as replace lost members from the same pool. Beyond reducing the potential for conflict, it also eases assimilation of new members.
However, there is a risk to that much like-mindedness, namely, like-mindedness. When everyone on the team looks the same, they tend to think the same too. Unfortunately, such groupthink has a chilling effect on breadth of thought and depth of discussion. Frankly, there are enough things getting in the way of honest, open communication and constructive debate without superimposing artificial limits on the way a group thinks, sees the world, tackles problems, and embraces opportunities. If you are struggling to connect with my reference, consider what some boards of directors, leadership teams, civic organizations, faith communities, and neighborhoods look like.
Affinity is not a bad thing. It is simply that diversity in its many forms adds perspective and perspective adds value. So, do not allow the affinity bias – or a dozen other behavioral biases – constrain your understanding and appreciation of our world.
Soli Deo Gloria
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28
J. Keith Hughey
Web site: www.jkeithhughey.com
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