EXERCISES FOR CHAPTER 1


EXERCISE 1.1 - DO YOU WANT TO BE BIASED?

 

Bias can be characterized as the preference for an opinion based upon a particular viewpoint as compared to other possible viewpoints about ideas, objects, people, or groups.  This exercise emphasizes the contradictions inherent in the idea of bias.  The exercise lists ten types of common biases.  There is a mixture of biases in the list - some are biases towards something and others are biases against a particular feature.  But not all types of Bias are included because of the difficulty in stating them as questions. 

 

On the right side of the list are two columns headed Keep and Reject.   Assuming that you have a choice in the matter, check Keep if you want to retain your current bias, and Reject if you would prefer to live your life without that particular Bias.  Check neither if you are unconcerned either way about the bias.

 

For example the first bias in the list is “Bias towards your best friend or spouse”.  I happen to think my wife is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.  But I concede my bias in forming that opinion.  I know this because indisputably not everyone would agree with me.  I am equally sure that I would not want to wake up one morning and find I no longer had my bias towards my wife.  So I would check the column marked Keep.

 

The list contains some tricky questions and note that there are no right or wrong answers as the purpose of the exercise is simply to make you think.

 

       Bias Type

Keep

Reject

1.      Bias towards your best friend or spouse

   

2.      Bias towards your immediate family

 

 

3.      Bias towards your friends

 

 

4.      Bias towards your religious or atheistic beliefs

 

 

5.      Bias towards your tendency for empathy

 

 

6.      Bias towards your understanding of the world

 

 

7.      Bias against the religious or atheistic beliefs of others

 

 

8.      Bias against the lack of empathy in others

 

 

9.      Bias against the way others understand the world

 

 

10.  Bias against the obnoxious

 

 

 

ANSWER NOTES:

If you are like most people you will have just chosen to keep some of your biases despite their potential to create so many complications.  Congratulations you obviously appreciate one of the problems with bias and you are ready to move onto the next exercise below.

 

 

EXERCISE 1.2 - WHAT IS CONSIDERED TO BE A BIAS?

 

A typical definition of Bias is: a prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.   But who determines what is fair or unfair.  I prefer: a persistent judgment about ideas, objects, people, or groups based upon a particular viewpoint, as compared to other reasonable viewpoints.   Bias becomes an issue when spoken or acted upon so others are substantially affected.   A simple preference or personal choice does therefore not count as a bias.

 

Do these statements constitute bias?



1.      “I like cheese”

2.      “I don’t like spinach”

3.      “Spinach is the most healthy vegetable”

4.      An attempt to persuade by unbalanced comments

5.      An initial reaction to a person who looks different

6.      An overt lie (not a white lie)

   

 

 

 

 
   
   

 

ANSWER NOTES:

1 & 2:  The first two statements are clearly matters of opinion so cannot be considered to be biases.  3:  The third statement is perhaps an overstatement but it would be difficult to claim it is biased unless the comment was meant to demean or influence someone who held a more balanced view. Then it definitely would be a bias.  4:  Unbalanced views can be shown to always contain bias. 5: Not a bias because something that it different or unusual will always catch our attention and cause a reaction somewhat different from those things that are more familiar to us. It does however present a very definite potential for bias.  6:  This is a bias (see later).