SYSTEMIC BIAS


This site focuses on the biases related to individuals, and small groups, and how they can upgrade their critical thinking. But the most troublesome biases can be those that affect entire categories of people over which they have little control. These are the biases that are built into our culture and the “systems” of our major institutions. Institutions can range from professional and ideological associations all the way to clubs and corporations. And the biases may be a result of an intentional tactic, thoughtlessness, a particular fad or fashion, or even for a kindly reason.  

 

Irrespective of the cause the social sciences have shown the negative effects of Systemic or Cultural Biases, but they do not seem to have a good idea on how to effectively resolve all the issues. The reason, in our opinion, is that many affirmative solutions that have been put in place are based upon statistical outcome differences and are not based upon an established bias or its effect.

 

In cases of historical biases cause and effect are so noticeable that the issue is obvious. But many matters are not so apparent. Every person from all groups have bad relational experiences which they can put down to human inattention or bad manners. But when sensitive categories are involve it is assumed to be due to a specific malevolence. These issues need to be studied from the perspective of bias. 

 

Some systemic and cultural biases can simply be addressed by resolving to move forward with a revised system. But other long term cases can take extended periods to resolve under the revisions without affirmative initiatives. On the plus side we know initiatives that encourage, assist, and provide advantages to selected groups can produce beneficial results. But we also observe that the traditional ways of addressing systemic bias have unintended consequences. Most notably: one type of bias simply replaces another, which causes resentment, and the sponsored groups tend to end up with other substantial obstacles.

 

For resolving bias problems, and for affirmative initiatives to truly succeed, they demand honesty and goodwill. Those virtues should operate under stipulations whereby any positive bias for one group can be accepted by those negatively affected by the positive bias.  To this end a non-euphemistic title should be used to explain its true nature - the awkward word “Un-Bias” – or something similar - is suggested.

 

An Un-Bias program – which disrupts the routine for the sponsored group and also has a demonstrable bias against one or more other groups - needs to have terms and conditions along with the initiative which should include: specific and measurable goals, a timeline, possible negative consequences, a list of groups who will be negatively affected, and a termination agreement with a time limit. The logic for these requirements is three-fold: it obliges the program to be fully designed and specified in advance, it allows the outcomes to be correctly evaluated; and it removes the temptation to mislead stakeholders. 

 

Any program managed in this way, with due consideration to the nature of bias, would likely produce improved results for all concerned.

 


Everyone's (inc. groups' and experts’) convictions and understandings are shaped by their unconscious assumptions - and these assumptions form our biases