Zero-sum thinking

Cognitive bias / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Zero-sum thinking perceives situations as zero-sum games, where one person's gain would be another's loss.[1][2][3] The term is derived from game theory. However, unlike the game theory concept, zero-sum thinking refers to a psychological construct—a person's subjective interpretation of a situation. Zero-sum thinking is captured by the saying "your gain is my loss" (or conversely, "your loss is my gain"). Rozycka-Tran et al. (2015) defined zero-sum thinking as:

A general belief system about the antagonistic nature of social relations, shared by people in a society or culture and based on the implicit assumption that a finite amount of goods exists in the world, in which one person's winning makes others the losers, and vice versa ... a relatively permanent and general conviction that social relations are like a zero-sum game. People who share this conviction believe that success, especially economic success, is possible only at the expense of other people's failures.[1]

Zero-sum bias is a cognitive bias towards zero-sum thinking; it is people's tendency to intuitively judge that a situation is zero-sum, even when this is not the case.[4] This bias promotes zero-sum fallacies, false beliefs that situations are zero-sum. Such fallacies can cause other false judgements and poor decisions.[5][6] In economics, "zero-sum fallacy" generally refers to the fixed-pie fallacy.