A Quick Introduction to Bias


Bias: a personal, and most often a poorly reasoned, judgement


Bias has a very general description something like this: A prejudice in favor of, or against, a person or group usually in a way considered to be unfair; a narrow viewpoint with a failure to consider alternative points of view. It is frequently synonymous with injustice, being judgmental, and not having an open mind.   

 

But these descriptions raise many more questions than they answer. For example: who makes the decision on what is fair; how does anyone know whether an opinion is well considered or is simply a superficial reflex; why are some biases deemed unquestioningly offensive yet others actively encouraged; and why does the description not take account of people’s very personal experiences. 

 

The Social Sciences do not appear to have satisfactory answers to many of these questions. But here, we will take a shot at them; not a casual notion but based on thirty years of practical experience, observation, and analysis.

 

Three points - assumptions, if you prefer - are necessary for the Bias problem to be addressed properly.

1]  A more helpful definition is required.  This is it:

An over-emphasis or exclusive focus on the negative (or positive) aspects of an object with an under-statement or disregard of the positive (or negative) aspects of that object, when compared to other contending objects (specified or implied).  An object being: a cause, an idea, a product, a person, or a specified grouping of people.

2]  Bias needs to be investigated from a broad perspective and include a look at any biases that may exist in our culture. This allows a new take on the popular theory that knowledge and truth are perceived in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute (Relativism).

3] There is no omniscient human arbiter - or any conceivable artificial intelligence (AI) computer or blockchain technology - that can authoritatively decide what is right and wrong. Other than personal experiences and consciences, everyone’s beliefs are essentially based upon a trust in an other person or group. The main exception is Foundational Science (as distinct from Complex Science - see: Bias in Science). Corollaries to these points are that we are all biased, and the work of scientists is not necessarily free of bias. 

 

If you accept these three points then you should enjoy exploring this site and learning more about Bias and the foundational assumption of Bias Aware Thinking. Keep clicking [Next Topic] at the end of each page to discover more about Bias.