So I’ve never encountered this before because I’m a science person and science accepts bias. In fact, studies on medications and disease processes mention specifically that a bias might have confounded the results or certain biases should be kept in mind while interpreting the results.
So I had never encountered the knee-jerk reaction to the word “bias” that people have on social media. Some people react to the word “bias” with even more biased comments.
Since my whole purpose behind being on social media would be completely remiss if I didn’t educate, I thought I’d do a little explanation of the word “bias” and the types of biases that affect us socially.
The word “bias” would usually be interpreted and even translated to the word “prejudice”. In statistics it means “distortion by a variable that we hadn’t counted on”. Simply put.
But we have many social biases which are probably not a prejudice but are definitely thought variables that influence our thinking and our viewing of other individuals. They also affect our interpretation of innocuous ideologies held by other people.
For example, to think that all women want rich men and therefore gauging every woman’s intention towards a rich man with the lens of her being a “gold digger” is a biased and generalist thought process. It’s not the bias holder’s fault that they’re thinking like that. A bias isn’t intentional. It’s a function of conditioning and prevalent beliefs. It’s not wrong for someone to say “I sense a little bias with how you are considering me to be after his money. Did you not think that he had anything else to offer?”
This is a simple but effective sentence and I know that biased folks explain themselves ad nauseam after such exchanges but planting the thought in their head to evaluate their bias is important.
Or the belief that “all physicians make a lot of money” is a biased belief due to the fact that physicians make more than the general population. Making more and making a lot are two different things. They’re very distinct. Do physicians usually fall in the higher tax bracket than other professions? Yes, usually not always! And you might have also noticed that there are many people who make much more than physicians. But someone started harping on physicians having direct pay-outs from pharmaceutical companies and now many people have jumped on the bandwagon without checking the facts or the reality.
Or the belief that “all head-covering Muslim women are oppressed”. That’s actually something that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Head covering is a Muslim woman’s conviction to modesty and her own faith. It has sometimes not got much to do with the extent to which she practices Islam at all. It’s important to know that using a broad brush to paint Muslims is another form of biased opinion-forming with little basis in factual truth .
Explicit biases are processed openly and consciously. People practicing them are openly displaying them and can even explain them to other people. They have a strong set of beliefs behind these biases and they are consciously processed. Conscious biases give rise to overt negative behavior which can or can’t be subtle. For example, a bias like ableism can be practiced explicitly by turning down a disabled person if they ask the ableist out. A more subtle demonstration of this bias would be to exclude the disabled person from social gatherings.
Implicit biases are unconscious biases and aren’t easily identifiable by the people they affect and are difficult to pick up even by the person who practices them. This makes it tough to challenge them. Implicit biases may be slightly more harmful as social biases than explicit biases. In my opinion, it’s easier to understand and evaluate why and how an explicit bias works and affects others. But implicit biases seep into our thought processes and affect relationships, judgment and then can lead to unfairness towards certain already marginalized groups. Believing that all black men are dangerous or all prostitutes have venereal diseases or all teenagers are hormonal messes shape our behaviors towards them. These behaviors are often harmful to these people that we hold preconceived ideas and biases about.
So the next time someone tells you that you may be biased, don’t get your claws out. Evaluate why you might have a bias. Biases can sometimes come from positions of privilege, advantage, power. They can also come from being the dominant gender, the more influential parent or the higher earner of a family.