Overcoming Cognitive Biases to Improve Youth Mentoring

by Jean Rhodes

A range of cognitive biases have shaped our expectations and practices in formal mentoring programs and hindered progress in the field.

Key Points:

  • Conflation of Expectations:
    • Informal and formal mentoring relationships are often conflated, leading to unrealistic expectations.
    • Admittedly, for many years I support for this conflation based on attachment theory and outdated research.
    • The field must move away from broad frameworks and align with targeted approaches.
  • Confirmation Bias:
    • The confirmation bias leads us to dismiss disappointing findings and rationalize our beliefs.
    • Disappointing results are often filtered out, reframed, discredited, or dismissed.
    • Over time, this bias hampers the ability to challenge our intuitions and impedes progress.
  • Equity Bias:
    • The tendency to weigh all opinions equally hinders progress in mentoring programs.
    • Expertise and competence are often undervalued, leading to misguided decisions.
    • The assumption that every opinion or data point deserves equal weight complicates effective program investments.
  • Overcoming Biases:
    • It is crucial to examine cognitive biases and dispense with intimidating exemplars.
    • Recognizing and addressing biases will improve the practice of formal mentoring.

By acknowledging and actively addressing cognitive biases in youth mentoring, practitioners and researchers can pave the way for more effective and evidence-based approaches. Overcoming biases allows for a clearer understanding of the limitations and potential of mentoring programs, ultimately benefiting the outcomes of youth participants.