The Psychology Behind Favoritism
Self Help

The Psychology Behind Favoritism

a girl feels jealous of her newborn brother

Favoritism is a favoured treatment or bias, that is a complex aspect of human nature that can be seen in cultures, societies and relationships. It is an act to show preference and be partial to another person or group. This preference can be manifested in different ways, like attention, affection, and allocation of resources. It is influenced by various factors and even situational circumstances, social dynamics and personal biases.

It includes several factors:

Cognitive Biases

They play a major role in the manifestation of favoritism. These shortcuts influence the way one perceives and interacts with other people, initiating favoritism in various ways:

1. Confirmation bias

People collects and confirm their perceptions and beliefs. evidence when they feel that an individual or group is better or deserving favour.

2. In-group bias

It refers to the favouring of individuals belonging to one group in comparison with other groups. Ethnicity, nationality, and religion are some of the factors that lead to favoritism towards people of one group and discrimination against others.

3. Attribution bias

Many times, people make assumptions and stereotypes and like to make additions to other people’s behaviour. Even though there is a lack of evidence to support these assumptions, when someone is seen as a favourite and their actions are always linked with positive traits or intentions

4. Anchoring bias

This occurs when making decisions. A person is more inclined to the first piece of information they receive. There is always a chance of contradicting opinion, if the information received belongs to someone who they perceive to be favourable.

Psychological Mechanism
1. Similarity

Also known as the Similarity-attraction principle. People favour those whom they find similar to them in aspects of appearance, personality, values and interests. Most probably, there are two main reasons for this attraction. First is that they feel comfortable with them and feel that they can understand them better than anyone else. The second reason is that they feel more connected and find themselves a more reliable and trustworthy person.

2. Proximity

It is also known as the Proximity principle. People favour those with whom they are in close association either physically or emotionally. Since people have more opportunities to interact with people, they tend to develop strong relationships and a greater sense of like and trust.

3. Power

People do favouritism in order to maintain their power of control. For example, a student who excels in studies and manages to do all the tasks provided by the teacher within a stipulated time frame receives favourable treatment.

4. Reciprocity

It is also known as the Norm of reciprocity. Generally, people tend to return the favour to those who have done them any favours in the past. It’s a social norm which encourages people to follow the cycle.

  • Initiating conflicts, resentment, and jealousy leads to a disrupted and negative working environment.
  • Unfairness and business ultimately decrease productivity and morale.
  • Those who get favoured develop a sense of entitlement, arrogance, and a feeling of being better than others and keep relying on being the favourite of others, losing their own self-worth.
  • Those who are unpaired develop low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.
Tips to cope with favouritism
  • Focus on your own goals and accomplishments. Don’t be discouraged from pursuing your own dreams
  • Avoid comparing to others. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses
  • Seek professional help if needed. Therapists can help in dealing with negative emotions.

Favouritism cannot be eliminated, but understanding its nature and prevalence and taking steps to mitigate its impact can be done to make a fairer and more inclusive environment. Most of the time, people unconsciously become part of favouritism. Hence, everyone must try to accept and respect new viewpoints on a specific matter, work effectively and consider without being getting defensive, and try to make a safe environment where words can be expressed fully and people listen to each other with different perceptions.

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