DeBiasing


Bias Aware Thinking (BAT) – as discussed and encouraged on this site – is an approach to enhance one’s critical thinking skills by being aware that human biases will always affect people’s thinking processes - even the thinking of the most intelligent and sensitive. Details and procedures are provided in the many sub-pages accessed from the page World of Bias. The overview in About Us and the sub-page Bias Aware Thinking provide more about the topic.

 

Debiasing (yes, it is a word) denotes social science’s strategy to control biases. According to Wikipedia (as of April 2016) debiasing strategies are not always effective and comprises three parts. 1] to pay people for appropriate behaviour and tax or add costs for sub-optimal decisions; 2] to re-frame issues, make data "easier" to understand, and to limit people’s choices; and 3] to train the public by focusing on important statistics and matters of interest.

 

Debiasing actually re-frames bias and words. For example the words I have italicized in the paragraph above are easy-going terms used to hide real intentions. For example: pay, tax and re-frame could be understood as bribe, punish, and mislead. To train important issues could mean to indoctrinate a particular point-of-view. Debiasing descriptions often use public health issues as examples to make the reader believe that debiasing is all about concern for people’s well-being and not to control their world-view. 

 

The strategies of Debiasing and Bias Aware Thinking are utterly different and in direct conflict. Both methods start in agreement by stressing the importance of three initial steps: to be aware one has triggered or reflexive mental processes, to acquire the motivation to correct biased thinking, and to learn how to control one’s thoughts.  All good so far but now the divergence starts.

 

Debiasing avoids discussing crucial topics known to affect biases. It does not promote skills that enhance people’s critical thinking, nor does it respect their experiences and opinions. It ignores that bias increases whenever one is motivated by an ideology or self-interest. It discourages debate and doesn't worry about the significant biases inherent in its strategy. Most of all it fails to explain how the promoters of the strategy have conquered their own biases so completely. In contrast Bias Aware Thinking takes each of these issues into consideration.

 

People learn by their trust in what they have heard and the details of their experiences. For example young people tend to trust their teachers, parents, and certain peers; as they grow in knowledge some, but not all, learn discernment. Those who mistrust their parents or authority figures will tend to hold opposing views. If someone trusts the framers of the debiasing strategy then they will tend to believe and accept it. This is the reason the strategy has only partial success.

 

The fundamental difference between the two methods is the first is an experienced based self-directed approach to manage bias, while the other is a set of actions and policies determined and directed by an “influential group” to modify the thoughts and actions of the general public. 

 

You decide which you prefer.