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What is In-Group Bias? How to Beat This Sneaky Thinking Trap

Jennifer Clinehens

minute read

Quick Definition: In-Group Bias (also called In-Group Favoritism) describes peoples’ tendency to favor those who belong to the same “groups” they do. 

Have you ever fallen into this sneaky thinking trap?

Let’s say your interviewing two people for the same job: 

✅ Person A is extremely qualified and experienced. You had a good interview, and they seem like they’d be fun to work with, but you don’t share too many interests outside of work. 

✅ Person B is very qualified but less so than Person A.

You had an okay interview until you found out that you both went to the same University and were members of the same fraternity. 

But after discovering you have a few social circles in common, you recommended to your boss that Person B be hired instead of Person A, who was more qualified but with whom you didn’t have much in common. 

Why did you choose the less qualified candidate? 

It’s down to In-Group Bias. 

What is In-Group Bias?

In-Group Bias (also called In-Group Favoritism) describes peoples’ tendency to favor those who belong to the same “groups” they do. 

It’s a cognitive bias — a systematic error in thinking. We’re all susceptible to some form of cognitive bias, no matter our age, education level, or cultural background. 

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Real World Examples of In-Group Bias

Here are a few examples of how In-Group Bias (also called In-Group Favoritism) can show up at work:

❌ Letting someone cut ahead of you in line at lunch because they’re wearing the jersey of your favorite football team.

 ❌ Not inviting someone out with the group for drinks after work because they’re older than most of the team. Because of the age difference, you don’t think there’d be much to talk to them about.

❌ Being friendlier and more accommodating to a member of your team who shares a similar cultural background.

The Bottom Line: 3 Ways to Avoid In-Group Bias

Want to avoid In-Group Bias? Start by asking yourself these 3 questions:

✅ Am I excluding this person unfairly because I subconsciously think they don’t “fit in?”

✅ Is your team dismissing someone’s ideas because they think differently than the group?

✅ How diverse is our team? Do we have multiple viewpoints from a variety of different backgrounds, social classes, and ways of thinking?


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