Representation Bias

Jump to: navigation, search

Mistaking representatives of a certain subset of a category for representing the wider category as a whole. For example, a psychologist may not meet any mentally healthy individuals from a certain minority – yet believe that his experience of mental patients from that minority is an experience of how people from that minority group are in general. (In Swedish: representationsbias)

When applied to a category of human beings, this is a facet of categorism.

When Representation Bias occurs on the group level in a context of scientific research, it is known as Selection Bias.


This facet of categorism is an expression of prejudice.

It is likely to intersect with facets such as:

  • Unchecked Aversion: Letting the negative experiences grow into bigotry.
  • Malpractice: It is hard to understand people, and thus treat them right, when you don't encounter them in a neutral way.

As well as with abstractions such as:

  • Equivocation: Deciding that "a much wider group" and "a certain small sub-set of said group" is actually the same thing.

Examples of applying this facet to a particular foci of categorism can include:

  • Racism: As a psychiatrist with no dark-skinned friends or co-workers, your personal experience is that every single dark-skinned person you meet have severe mental problems (because those who don't are far less likely to seek your help as a psychiatrist)... if this leads you to believe that you know something about the mental health of dark-skinned people in general, it makes you rather racist.

Representation Bias in example texts

  • Adam's homophobia: Adam reducing gay people to sexual acts and assume almost everyone to be heterosexual – gays who don't misbehave doesn't count as “gay” to him.