In 1975, researchers at Stanford invited a group of undergraduates to take part in a study about suicide. They were presented with pairs of suicide notes. In each pair, one note had been composed by a random individual, the other by a person who had subsequently taken his own life. The students were then asked to distinguish between the genuine notes and the fake ones.
Some students discovered that they had a genius for the task. Out of twenty-five pairs of notes, they correctly identified the real one twenty-four times. Others discovered that they were hopeless. They identified the real note in only ten instances.
As is often the case with psychological studies, the whole setup was a put-on. Though half the notes were indeed genuine—they’d been obtained from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office—the scores were fictitious.
The students who’d been told they were almost always right were, no more discerning than those who had been told they were mostly wrong.
In the second phase of the study, the deception was revealed. The students were told that the real point of the experiment was to gauge their responses to thinking they were right or wrong.
Finally, the students were asked to estimate how many suicide notes they had actually categorized correctly vs an average student.
At this point, something curious happened. The students in the high-score group said that they thought they had, in fact, done quite well—significantly better than the average student.
Conversely, those who’d been assigned to the low-score group said that they thought they had done significantly worse than the average student—a conclusion that was equally unfounded.
Researchers observed that once formed, perceptions are more real than reality.
My question to you – which perceptions are you carrying forward for the next financial year? For people managers, specifically, is it your beliefs in your current set of recruitment processes, or your belief in your appraisal process or something else? What would it take for you to adopt a new idea?
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
I look forward to hearing from you. Please write in to firstname.lastname@example.org
PS: We have got a wonderful response for our financial year end offer for signing up for our game based assessments. We have received a lot of requests for extending the offer to organizations yet to take our demo. In case you, have been thinking about this, give us a shout – this could be a great time to adopt a new idea and help others in your organisation to let go of bias and impressions. After all – Perceptions are more real than Reality!