Biases can be described as a personal prejudice for or against a person, group or situation, especially in a way that is considered to be unfair. Because of the way in which we may have been informed of certain situations, we can often apply certain characteristics and assessments just by how we look at someone or something. There are many different types of biases, each with different causes and effects, some of which are discussed below to provide you with a more detailed understanding of the subject.
Causes of Bias
You may not think that you are creating opinions in your head, but in reality, this occurs to everyone. It is just one of those things that you can’t change automatically, as it is how your brain operates. One huge factor that we have to take note of is the influence that society has on influencing us to create stereotypes of other people and situations. This happens because our brain is designed to take shortcuts.
Our brain creates this thing called ‘implicit bias’, which is basically how we get influenced by the world around us, where our brains are designed to try to simplify how we interpret these signals. With the volume of information we see in the world today, especially with social media, this can have a big influence on how our brains can form an opinion about a group of people or a situation by seeing articles and images and how we interpret these. As our brains get flooded with so much information with everything going on around us, we create quick and easy shortcuts for everything so that our decisions are easier for us to make. By the brain creating shortcuts it forms an opinion on groups and people very easily without us even thinking about it. Here are examples of the six most common biases we encounter.
- Outcome Bias: This is how we judge a situation based on the outcome of a previous situation, which your brain thinks is the same. A good example here is if you crossed the road many times when the walking signal is still red and nothing has ever happened to you before, then your brain thinks it is okay to continue to keep doing that because your judgment is based on the fact that nothing has ever happened before. In reality, you could get killed by a vehicle for doing the wrong thing.
- Attribution Bias: This is where an individual blames someone else when something goes wrong, and on the other hand takes all the credit when things go right. A good example here is Donald Trump, who constantly blames others for the world’s problems, and is the first to take credit for success, even if he didn’t create it.
- Priming Bias: When our brains have a pre-formed opinion of someone or something – it’s like putting a label on something. A good example here is where some teenagers think that Facebook is for older people and has no value to them, so in their mind they make a judgment to not use Facebook in any way. The same priming bias could exist for other social media platforms. They may be right, or they may be wrong, but either way, their perception is biased.
- Salience Bias: This is when everybody is talking constantly about a specific topic or subject, and because of this your brain thinks that this is the most important thing going on right now – it must be as everyone is talking about it? A good example here is when social media influencers are talking constantly about using a certain type of product – it could be shoes, clothes, make-up or fake tan, or it could be anything – then everybody in the target group feels like they have to be using it. It’s like the fear of missing out (also known as FOMO).
- Confirmation Bias: This is when people only look for information that aligns with what they want to see and confirm their existing opinion about something. A good example here is thinking about your favourite sports team that you support, where you believe that they are the best team, and when you search the Internet for news about your team, you only want to hear if they are doing well, essentially information that supports your belief. At the same time, you don’t look at negative information, like when the team is having problems.
- Anchoring Bias: This is when your brain makes a judgment based on the first thing you see or hear. A good example here is when you are buying a jacket or an item of clothing online and the first thing you see is an advert that it is “50% off!” Your mind automatically thinks you are getting this at half price, when in reality the website might have just marked it up on the baseline price, only to mark it down again. In reality your mind is anchored to the “50% off!” and the actual price becomes secondary.
Biases & Racism
An important point to keep in mind is that racism and biases are not the same thing, although they do have a link with one another. An unconscious bias (meaning you don’t realise you’re doing something) can lead to a form of judgment against certain racial groups, such as homophobia, sexism, different cultures or groups with different religious beliefs. The forming of our implicit bias can be influenced from the schools we attend and the groups that we socialise with.
Biases in Youth
You may not think young children pick up on other people’s personality traits, but in reality, it is one of the things that they are best at. Children look at some people and put a label on them of who they are and what they do. And they do this because they don’t know any better. It is what they have seen older people do. Experts have proven that children as young as pre-school are able to create stereotypes and negative thoughts in their heads about other people, because of what they have seen or heard from those around them.
Talking to Your Younger Siblings About Bias:
As well as understanding biases and their impact on how you engage with others, it is very important to talk with your younger siblings about biases, because kids need to know about the differences people have, as they grow older. A little information about biases and how it can control our brains, as well as the difference between biases and racism, is great information to share with kids. It is often a hard topic to bring up, so it is good to have yourself prepared for the conversation. If left unsaid, your younger siblings could continue to develop biases and poor judgment, which could lead to unwanted behaviour. You can do this by practicing what you are going to say with someone else that you know.
There are many different types of biases and how the brain thinks, and it is actually something great to get to know about yourself because you never actually realise the labels you may have put on certain people, groups or situations. Hopefully this article has helped you understand a bit more about how the subject of biases and how it works in our brains. You can start by thinking about the biases you might have?