I've run across descriptions of this bias before, but cannot find it right now... I checked Wikipedia's list of cognitive biases to no avail.

Basically, people working in some domain and having expertise in it, naturally tend to notice the problems in that area, such as incompetence of other people working in their field, bad policies and poor management decision making, etc, resulting in a disproportionate distrust of their own field of expertise. For example, healthcare workers are more likely to be vaccine hesitant because they distrust their own industry more than most due to personal experience with incompetence, mismanagement, politics, and corruption within their field.

However, this distrust does not carry over to other domains. So for example, watching a movie that portrays something you have domain knowledge in, you will quickly notice the inaccuracies and misrepresentation, but portrayals of domains outside your expertise will naturally be believable and perceived as accurate. Similarly, reading news stories about topics that you have expertise in, you will notice inaccuracies and bias immediately, but fail to recognize that the same level of inaccuracy and bias must exist in domains outside your area of expertise, implicitly treating such news stories as accurately reported.

What is this bias called?

  • $\begingroup$ Very interesting question. I have noticed that too $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Mar 18 at 7:51

I found what I was looking for. It's called the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect:

... You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. ... you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That quote is attributed to Michael Crichton, who named the effect after his physicist friend Murray Gell-Mann, who discovered it.

This effect is not studied in psychology as far as I can tell, so it may not be real, but having a name for it helps learn at least that much.


Anchoring bias or focalism is:

a cognitive bias where an individual depends too heavily on an initial piece of information offered (considered to be the "anchor") to make subsequent judgments during decision making. Once the value of this anchor is set, all future negotiations, arguments, estimates, etc. are discussed in relation to the anchor. Information that aligns with the anchor tends to be assimilated toward it, while information that is more dissonant or less related tends to be displaced. This bias occurs when interpreting future information using this anchor to gauge.

The example initially given in the Wikipedia article uses an initial price for a car set as a starting point for negotiations. However, experience can come into play as anchor points for evaluation of situations and employment negotiations etc.

Early research found that experts (those with high knowledge, experience, or expertise in some field) were more resistant to the anchoring effect (Wilson, et al. 1996). Since then, however, numerous studies have demonstrated that while experience can sometimes reduce the effect, even experts are susceptible to anchoring.

In a study concerning the effects of anchoring on judicial decisions, researchers found that even experienced legal professionals were affected by anchoring. This remained true even when the anchors provided were arbitrary and unrelated to the case in question (Englich, et al. 2006).

Also, this relates to goal setting, where more experienced individuals will set goals based on their past experiences which consequently affects end results in negotiations (Harvard Law, 2019).

An anchoring bias can also lead to a backfire effect, a name for the finding that given evidence against their beliefs, people can reject the evidence and believe even more strongly. The phrase was first coined by Nyhan & Reifler (2010).

Anchoring biases can be formed as a result of illusory correlations, which are phenomena within Psychology where people have been known to perceive a relationship between variables (typically people, events, or behaviors) even when no such relationship exists. A false association may be formed because rare or novel occurrences are more salient and therefore tend to capture one's attention (Pelham & Blanton, 2013). This phenomenon is one way stereotypes form and endure (Mullen & Johnson, 1990).


Englich, B., Mussweiler, T., & Strack, F. (2006). Playing Dice With Criminal Sentences: The Influence of Irrelevant Anchors on Experts' Judicial Decision Making. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 32 (2): 188–200. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167205282152

Harvard Law (2019). The Anchoring Effect and How it Can Impact Your Negotiation. PON - Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School https://www.pon.harvard.edu/daily/negotiation-skills-daily/the-drawbacks-of-goals/

Mullen, B., & Johnson, C. (1990). Distinctiveness-based illusory correlations and stereotyping: A meta-analytic integration. British Journal of Social Psychology. 29(1): 11–28. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.2044-8309.1990.tb00883.x.

Nyhan, B., & Reifler, J. (2010). When corrections fail: The persistence of political misperceptions. Political Behavior, 32(2), 303-330. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-010-9112-2

Pelham, B. W. Blanton, H. (2012). Conducting Research in Psychology: measuring the weight of smoke (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning. pp. 11–12.

Wilson, Timothy D.; Houston, Christopher E.; Etling, Kathryn M.; Brekke, Nancy (1996). A new look at anchoring effects: Basic anchoring and its antecedents. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 125(4): 387–402. https://doi.org/10.1037/0096-3445.125.4.387

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I'm familiar with the anchoring heuristic, and I see the similarity, but I think it's a little too far removed from what I described. The anchoring bias is only effective within a single domain, while the bias I have in mind is across domains; the anchoring bias is relatively short-lived, usually affecting a single negotiation, while the bias I described is more general; and the anchoring bias has a strict ordering to it, that is not applicable in the case I describe. $\endgroup$ – Arnon Weinberg Mar 19 at 4:17
  • $\begingroup$ OK, thanks @ArnonWeinberg for the feedback. I'll keep searching for alternatives which may fit the bill. $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Mar 20 at 9:05

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