It’s All About That Bias

I take a somewhat centrist (ish) view of most things.  I think the line in the concrete far right folks are just as wrong as the line in the concrete far left folks.  We’ve been given the binary option  of point A or point B, where both points exist in space far away from each other with nothing in between.  No line.  No gray area.  And certainly no ability to compromise.  For that matter, it seems like even having discussion on the weather is becoming more and more difficult.

In and amongst all these non-discussions there’s a lot of finger pointing about bias.  The media is biased! The media is biased!  Of course it is, though not in the way many think.  The usual approach is to claim any media that disagrees with you is biased.  The reality is that media is only biased toward making money.  Individual journalists still attempt to do a good job reporting the news but the media conglomerates are after your money.  Thus we have conservative outlets and liberal outlets.  They are indeed biased but not because they’re searching for truth.  They’re searching for ad dollars.

What can we do?  We start by recognizing our own biases, and yes, we all have them.  The other day I was listening to The Liturgists podcast on how we know what we know and they had a pretty good description on various kinds of bias.

One is confirmation bias.  That’s when new information reinforces what we already believe.  We have a tendency to look at new things uncritically if it supports what we already think about something.

Another is the bandwagon effect.  We generally align our thinking with what our tribe/community/herd believes.  Social media reinforces this by showing us what we, and our family/friends, already believe.

Authority bias is interesting.  We are inclined to believe what an authority figure or someone who has elevated status.  No surprise there but what makes it interesting is that it is true unless the person with elevated status is of the rival group and then we disagree even more vehemently than we do if it is just a regular person.

Lastly is the availability cascade.  We believe what we hear repeatedly, regardless of evidence or merit.  This is another treat that rears it’s ugly head on social media in big ways (see bandwagon effect)

None of us are immune from bias.  We all have it.  The question that remains for each of us is to ask if we’re willing to recognize it and own up to it?  If you’re not willing to own up to it then I submit you are part of the communication breakdown in this country.  When reading, commenting, sharing, waxing poetic on something, give some thought to how your bias plays into the interaction.

We’ll all be better off.

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