The term similarity-attraction bias was coined by psychology researchers and scholars Elaine Hatfield and Ellen Berscheid in 1969. In hiring practices, similarity-attraction bias refers to the practice of a hiring manager recruiting or hiring individuals who are similar to them. Similarities can include appearance, personality, background, education, religious beliefs, age, race, and more. Because it is usually so obvious, the similarity-attraction bias is one of the most recognizable cognitive biases.
No law prohibits a hiring manager from selecting a candidate who is similar to them. However, excluding other equally qualified candidates because of dissimilar characteristics can cross into the grey area of possible discrimination. Such practices are prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
It can be challenging to prove in a court of law that similarity-attraction bias influenced a hiring decision. However, if a company or recruiter has a practice of hiring only a specific type of individual, it will eventually become apparent in the workplace. This can eventually put the employer at risk of lawsuits and investigations by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Suppose a hiring manager has identified four strong candidates for a position. These four candidates are equally qualified in terms of educational credentials, work experience, and skillsets. However, one candidate builds a solid rapport with the hiring manager because they attended the same university. Additionally, they are similar in age and belong to the same student organizations. If the selector’s hiring decision is influenced by the similarities shared with this candidate, similarity-attraction bias has occurred.
is a term that refers to the unconscious bias that exists when a person is naturally inclined to favor someone who shares things in common with them. In some cases, affinity bias can lead to favoritism.
refers to a person’s tendency to consciously or subconsciously seek information that confirms their opinions or views while disregarding input that challenges their perception.