Authority bias

Authority bias is the tendency to attribute greater accuracy to the opinion of an authority figure (unrelated to its content) and be more influenced by that opinion. An individual is more influenced by the opinion of this authority figure, believing their views to be more credible, and hence place greater emphasis on the authority figure’s viewpoint. This concept is considered one of the so-called social cognitive biases or collective cognitive biases.

Humans generally have a deep-seated duty to authority and tend to comply when requested by an authority figure. Some scholars explain that individuals are motivated to view authority as deserving of their position and this legitimacy leads people to accept and obey the decisions that it makes. System justification theory articulates this phenomenon, particularly within its position that there is a psychological motivation for believing in the steadiness, stability and justness of the current social system.

Authority bias can be measured concerning respect for authority, where higher respect for authority positively correlates with the increased likelihood of exhibiting authority bias. Respect for authority is measured using the Respect for Authority Index (RAI), which averages responses on deference to the police. A higher score on the RAI is indicative of higher respect for authority, and hence strengthening the execution of authority bias.

Cultural differences in the strength of authority bias have been identified, in which the differences in edits made to Wikipedia articles by administrators and regular users were compared for accuracy. In Western Europe, the bias has a negligible effect. In Eastern Europe, the bias is larger and the administrator's edits are perceived as more likely to be true (despite the edits being inaccurate), indicating a cultural difference in the extent to which authority bias is experienced.

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Definition

Authority bias, a term popularised by American psychologist Stanley Milgram, is defined as having an incorrectly high belief that the information verified by a person with formal authority is correct, and therefore an individual is likely to be more influenced by them. Individuals in positions of authority are seen to be treated... ...read more

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