Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Everyone is Biased

Grammar note: “Biased” is an adjective. “Bias” is a noun. It is not appropriate to say that a person or an entity “is bias”. Unless you are talking to like a prejudice elemental or something (takes note of that for hypothetical hipster RPG)

In a (long-winded) discussion during the recent election period, someone told me that I “obviously had a bias” and my answer was “Of course I do! Everyone does!” People have different histories and backgrounds which means for any given topic they are likely to start from different points. These biases are perfectly okay and healthy and they’re called opinions. (Cue quote about opinions being like assholes). Example: I’m not in favor of the death penalty therefore I’m biased against candidates that want to promote it

Although we are all entitled to our own opinions, many times we are called upon to make objective judgments. Common examples are jury trials, elections, or when you’re a judge in some contest. During these instances we have to be careful to weigh our own biases and opinions objectively to make sure we are giving a fair judgment

What you do need to note is when you become subject to cognitive biases – unconscious, automatic influences on human judgment and decision making that reliably produce reasoning errors. Be wary of your own cognitive biases and try to mitigate or compensate for them in your reasoning

Research has also shown that people have a bias blind spot. This means we think we are less biased than other people. This is why it is important to examine your own arguments from time to time to see whether you are subject to any of the known cognitive biases. When there is a need to be objective, we need to be extra critical of our own arguments

Often, it is simply a matter of shifting your perspective: think about how a situation looks to people with an opposing point of view to balance out your own views. A sure sign of bias is that you are only aware of the positives of your own point of view and the negatives in others’

Another tip: **Do not listen only to people who have the same opinion as you do. **If you only expose yourself to people who think along the same lines, you are enabling the same set of biases until they become subconscious. This traps you in an echo chamber of people constantly reinforcing the same ideas. A friend and I recently were discussing how certain people react poorly to differing opinions and theorized that maybe that person grew up surrounded by people who enabled his biases

Instead,** seek out different opinions. **Continuing from the death penalty example above, I don’t shut out discussion from friends who I know to be pro-death penalty. I still read their threads and try to understand their point of view. Listening to a wide variety of different opinions will tend to cancel out your biases with time and will lead towards more objective thinking. For example, when conducting a performance assessment of a team member (something I’ve done often for the past decade or so!), I tend to get other people’s opinions first to contrast with my own, and will often ask someone else whether I might be biased in certain situations. The risk of personal bias is mitigated by sourcing different opinions

At the end of the day, we probably can’t completely eliminate our own biases, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying to be more objective in our thoughts and discussions and decisions

Posted by under post at #Opinions
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