Imagine that you’re building a product for small and medium businesses that have adopted sustainable practices. You circulate surveys and conduct interviews to arrive at a particular conclusion. You reach out to your social circle and ask them to forward the survey to others they know. Now take a moment and reflect on the kind of people who participated in your study. The data will most likely be skewed because people weren’t selected at random. The results you derive won’t be representative of the target population you’re hoping to gain insights from.

This is how selection bias psychology plays out and leads to unintentional discrimination. Let’s explore how selection bias affects our daily life, especially workplace settings, in greater detail.

Demystifying The Definition Of Selection Bias

Unconscious bias, also known as cognitive bias, is a way in which our minds take shortcuts while processing information. Our decision-making and critical thinking skills are compromised as we jump to conclusions. Unconscious bias can affect workplaces and organizations to a great extent—making them less inclusive and diverse. However, we can defeat and overcome such unintentional discrimination and make informed decisions.

There are various types of biases that have the potential to impact the hiring, mentoring and promotion processes in professional settings. One such commonly occurring bias is the selection bias. You’ve probably come across examples of selection bias in research and data sampling. Selection bias refers to a situation when you’re unable to randomize data or participants. You reach an incorrect (biased) conclusion because participants weren’t fairly selected.

What Are The Types Of Selection Bias?

It isn’t easy to tackle biases because human brains aren’t wired that way. We take mental shortcuts, even if it distorts thought processes. We can’t be 100% bias-free, but we can keep biases in check. Let’s explore the different types of selection bias and the effective ways of challenging them:

  1. Sampling Bias

The most common type of selection bias, sampling bias occurs when you draw incorrect (biased) conclusions after analyzing a subset of data (sample) because of your participant pool. In the example stated above, reaching out to common social circles makes room for sampling bias.

When you have a limited circle, people who are similar to each other will constitute the entire participant pool. You’ll neither have variety nor differing insights to enhance the quality of your study. Consider switching the channels of broadcasting your survey.

  1. Pre-Screening

This type of selection bias is commonly seen during hiring. Employers often tend to pre-screen candidates’ profiles (for example, checking LinkedIn profiles) before meeting them in person. Imagine that you are a hiring manager and an alumnus of an elite business school. A candidate who graduated from the same school is more likely to grab your attention.

Pre-screening bias in hiring can be tackled through double-blind interviews. This means that you ask candidates to block out personal details and make the application as objective as possible. However, the process is time-consuming and isn’t always feasible in fast-paced work environments.

  1. Survivorship Bias

It occurs when you select a sample or data that passed the selection process and ignore the subjects or information that didn’t. In other words, you focus only on that part of the data or sample that already went through some kind of pre-selection process and overlook other details because they’re not visible anymore. This leads to overly optimistic and incorrect results.

Survivorship bias can be commonly observed in startup businesses. Entrepreneurs are often under the impression that their success is solely the result of hard work. However, many factors influence the success of any business. Maybe the timing was good or the investors were looking to put their money into that particular product. Whatever the reason be, you need to be mindful of this type of selection bias.

Harappa Education’s Making Decisions course will teach you how to navigate biases in the most effective way. The Good Decision Process will teach you how to scrutinize situations and arrive at smart decisions. The PRISM Framework will help you deal with the negative consequences of cognitive biases. Learn the basics of good decision-making and never doubt yourself again!


Explore topics such as Decision-MakingTypes of Decision-MakingStrategic Decision-Making Decision Tree Analysis from Harappa Diaries and learn to make decisions without any personal bias.

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