One's Perception of Another Is Based on One's Perception of Themselves

"Egocentric anchoring" is a term used to describe a phenomenon whereby one's view of an other begins by defining that other in relation to the self. An individual engaging in egocentric anchoring would look at another person or group and define them based on the degree of similarity or difference they exhibit compared to the observer's own self-identity. Any new information gathered about the other is evaluated against this initial assessment.

Haag and Marsden have found that egocentric anchoring is difficult to overcome without appropriate training and processes. In a study they performed with roughly 50 IT design students, they observed that when the students encountered a persona similar to themselves, they were more likely to rely on egocentric defaults rather than actively attempt to empathize. Conversely, when a person was perceived as being different, they over-simplified the persona and focused heavily on perceived points of difference between the persona (e.g. computer literacy).

Egocentric anchoring in design

Egocentric anchoring has long been identifies as a critical fallacy in design. An aversion to egocentric design is often expressed axiomatically as "you are not your user," to remind designers to begin from the needs of the other rather than designing based on their own needs and preferences. Designers implement a number of techniques and processes to mitigate the risks of egocentric anchoring, including personas.



Haag, Maren, and Nicola Marsden. “Exploring Personas as a Method to Foster Empathy in Student IT Design Teams.” International Journal of Technology and Design Education, April 24, 2018.