Egocentricity means confusing what we see and think with reality. When under the influence of egocentricity, we think that the way we see things is exactly the way things are. Egocentricity manifests* itself as an inability or unwillingness to consider others’ points of view, a refusal to accept ideas or facts that would prevent us from getting what we want (or think we want). In its extreme forms, it is characterized by a need to be right about everything, a lack of interest in consistency and clarity, an all or nothing attitude (“I am 100% right; you are 100% wrong. ), and a lack of self-consciousness of one’s own thought processes. The egocentric individual is more concerned with the appearance of truth, fairness, and fair mindedness, than with actually being correct, fair, or fair minded. Egocentricity is the opposite of critical thought. It is common in adults as well as in children. As people are socialized, egocentricity partly evolves into sociocentricity. Egocentric tendencies extend to their groups. The individual goes from “I am right! to “We are right! ” To put this another way, people find that they can often best satisfy their egocentric desires through a group. “Group think” results when people egocentrically attach themselves to a group. One can see this in both children and adults: My daddy is better than your daddy! My school (religion, country, race, etc. ) is better than yours. Uncritical thinkers often confuse loyalty with always supporting and agreeing, even when the other person or the group is wrong.
If egocentricity and sociocentricity are the disease, self-awareness is the cure. We need to become aware of our own tendency to confuse our view with “The Truth”. People can often recognize when someone else is egocentric. Most of us can identify the sociocentricity of members of opposing groups. Yet when we ourselves are thinking egocentrically or sociocentrically, it seems right to us (at least at the time). Our belief in our own rightness is easier to maintain* because we ignore the faults in our thinking.
We automatically hide our egocentricity from ourselves. We fail to notice when our behavior contradicts* our self-image. We base our reasoning on false assumptions* we are unaware of making. We fail to make relevant* distinctions* (of which we are otherwise aware and able to make) when making them prevents us from getting what we want. We deny or conveniently “forget” facts that do not support our conclusions. We often misunderstand or distort what others say.
The solution, then, is to reflect* on our reasoning and behavior; to make our beliefs explicit*, critique* them, and, when they are false, stop making them; to apply the same concepts in the same ways to ourselves and others; to consider every relevant* fact, and to make our conclusions consistent with the evidence; and to listen carefully and open mindedly to others. We can change egocentric tendencies when we see them for what they are: irrational* and unjust. The development of children’s awareness of their egocentric and sociocentric patterns of thought is a crucial* part of education in critical thinking.
This development will be modest at first but can grow considerably over time. Egocentric bias occurs when people claim more responsibility for themselves for the results of a joint action than an outside observer would credit them. Besides simply claiming credit for positive outcomes, which might simply be self-serving bias, people exhibiting egocentric bias also cite themselves as overly responsible for negative outcomes of group behavior as well (however this last attribute would seem to be lacking in megalomania). This may be because our own actions are more “available” to us than the actions of others.