Taylor Swift sells a lot of song downloads. Yet, I couldn’t name one of her songs without Google’s help. I don’t dislike her, but I just don’t prefer her music. Lots of people do like her and her music and she does very well.
I have a personal preference bias against Taylor Swift.
In almost every aspect of life, I see the personal preference bias at work. It works fine when we’re dealing with products in a free market. Nobody tries to impose their preference for Taylor Swift on me. I can change the channel when her song comes on the radio, choose not to attend her concerts and choose not buy her songs.
It works fine with our friends. We tend to hang out with the people who we prefer.
Here William Gadea ponders the motivations behind why a bread company would make 40 varieties of bread (thanks to Russ Roberts at Cafe Hayek for the link). Gadea can’t imagine that folks actually like 40 varieties of bread, because he doesn’t like 40 varieties of bread. He thinks it’s more likely that the bread company produces so many varieties to control shelf space.
I wrote about personal preference bias in my Moneyball post, though I didn’t call it that then. The baseball talent scouts and coaches in the movie exhibit personal preference biases that caused them to overlook valuable baseball talent.
I see this in the business world. Folks, who don’t necessarily produce the best results, are often promoted because they are simply preferred by the folks who are doing the promoting.
Politics is steeped with personal preference bias. We often vote for candidates because we can imagine ourselves “having a beer” with him, rather than basing our decision on his qualifications, policy positions and view of the government and the Constitution.
Policy is also influenced by personal preference bias. Because some people preferred owning homes, they thought it would be good for everyone. Renting was seen as bad, even though folks have rented for thousands of years.
That personal preference bias led to policy to get more people to own their homes and ended in the financial crisis. In fact, for many of the very people it was designed to help, it turned the ‘dream’ of home ownership into a nightmare. Canada did not fall for this particular personal preference bias.
Payday lending opponents exhibit personal preference bias. Because they don’t see value in getting a payday loan, they don’t think others should, either, even though many do.
Supporters of minimum wage exhibit personal preference bias. They don’t think anyone should earn less than minimum wage, unless, of course, those willing parties work for them.
We all have personal preference biases. I certainly do. The trick is recognizing your biases and restraining yourself from forcing them on others.