How to Deal with Expectation Bias

Expectation bias refers to the tendency to interpret and remember information that aligns with existing beliefs and expectations. Some of these beliefs have been placed on us by family, friends, or internally by ourselves. Some are artificial, and many are rooted in the word "supposed and should" - you are supposed to be a doctor, you should be married by age 30, or whatever other artificial (or real) expectations you might face.

This bias can prevent open-mindedness, hinder critical thinking, and lead to poor decision-making. However, having no expectations, or belief that something positive will happen, is equally bad since you have nothing to look forward to. Expectations are important and it is possible to overcome expectation bias with awareness and effort.

Making choices

Life is full of choices. In decision-making, we normally adopt a logical process to define all options and select the best-predicted outcome. At least, that's the classical method—however, behaviors and emotions often short-cut that process, sometimes for good and often not. That's the art of judgment in decisions. Either way, the outcomes are completely open to chance and change once the decision is made. Managing the difference between the"expected outcomes" and the "actual outcomes" requires emotional strength.

How can one manage expectation bias?

The answer lies less in trying to lower your expectations and more to do with ensuring they are reasonable in the first place. Here are some strategies I find useful.

Developing a growth mindset:
Cultivating a growth mindset is essential to tackle expectation bias. A growth mindset believes effort and hard work can develop intelligence and abilities. By embracing a growth mindset, individuals become more receptive to new ideas and experiences. This openness allows them to challenge their preconceived notions and actively seek diverse perspectives that may challenge their expectations.

Seek out diverse opinions and experiences:
Exposing oneself to various opinions and experiences is crucial to overcome expectation bias. Actively seeking out alternative viewpoints and perspectives can broaden one's mental horizons and reduce the influence of pre-existing expectations. Engaging in respectful and open-minded dialogue with individuals with different opinions can help to question personal biases and expand one's understanding of a topic.

Conduct comprehensive research and fact-check:
Expectation bias often arises from the selective interpretation of information. To combat this bias, make a conscious effort to conduct comprehensive research when exploring a topic. Relying on credible sources and fact-checking information can provide a balanced understanding of a particular issue. A thorough examination of different sources helps challenge assumptions and biases, enabling a more objective analysis.

Apply critical thinking skills:
Developing critical thinking skills is vital in dealing with expectation bias. This involves evaluating evidence objectively and questioning the logical coherence of arguments. By actively engaging in critical thinking, one can challenge personal preconceptions and identify potential flaws in their reasoning. This approach encourages a more thoughtful and balanced evaluation of information, allowing for unbiased decision-making.

Maintain self-awareness:
Being self-aware is crucial in recognizing and addressing expectation bias. Regularly reflecting upon our thoughts, feelings, and preferences allows us to identify areas where we may be susceptible to forming expectations. Self-awareness will enable individuals to step out of their comfort zones, acknowledge personal biases, and intentionally seek out alternative perspectives.

Practice mindfulness:
Mindfulness is a beneficial technique that helps individuals become more aware of their thoughts and emotions in the present moment. By practicing mindfulness, one can become better attuned to their biases and judgments. This heightened awareness allows for a more objective evaluation of information and reduces the influence of expectation bias on decision-making.


Expectation bias can hinder our ability to make well-informed decisions and impede personal growth. However, we can effectively address and overcome this cognitive bias by actively incorporating strategies such as cultivating a growth mindset, seeking diverse opinions, conducting thorough research, applying critical thinking skills, maintaining self-awareness, and practicing mindfulness. By adopting these strategies, we can foster a more open-minded, objective, and intellectually honest approach to information processing, enabling us to make better decisions and embrace personal growth.

Seeking support for expectation bias

Although expectations are usually well-meaning, they have nothing to do with the actual level of satisfaction or value you derive from the activity or choice. Setting realistic expectations that are balanced and adaptive will help you find success through whatever outcome comes your way. At Medens Health, our therapists can support you. We offer therapy in-person in California and Nevada, and remotely across ~36 states. Reach out to us by phone or text at (833) 624-5400, send us a message using our online contact form, or to register as a new patient get started here.


The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.

If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.