I just made up a term — Anachronistic Prejudice

January 25, 2024 BY danariely

Anachronistic Prejudice is a term I recently made up to describe a situation where we use current norms to judge something that happened long ago or to judge someone who lived long ago. The other element of Anachronistic Prejudice is that while we use the wrong norms, we don’t fully realize that we are doing so.

In my mind, this is one of the worst biases of our time in terms of its negative impact on society and on individuals.

How might we fight such a bias?  Here is one way: When you find yourself judging people for something that happened five or more years ago, stop and think about how you behaved during that timeframe. For example, think about your sense of humor 15 years ago. Then think about how likely you would have been, in the same timeframe, to make the same mistake as you are judging them on. Next, add a 50% chance because you are likely to have an overly positive opinion about yourself.

Now go ahead and judge.