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I’m Objective, You’re Biased

The Situationist (one of my new favorite blogs) posted about our ability to judge our own bias relative to others’.

Because bias tends to occur non-consciously, searching for it in one’s explicit thoughts is a little like looking for one’s car in the refrigerator. In assessing other peoples’ bias, however, we tend to look at their behavior.

In other words, we overestimate our ability to judge the intentions of our own mind. We scan our conscious thoughts for bias even though bias is often unconscious and therefore opaque, even to ourselves. We don’t know ourselves as well as we think.

People’s willingness to recognize their own biases is, of course, an important first step in prompting them to correct for and overcome those influences. Once people are able to recognize that they can be biased without knowing it, perhaps they can stop relying on their good intentions and introspectively clean consciences for evidence of their own freedom from biases that range from corrupt, to discriminatory, to unfairly conflictual behavior. From that more humble starting point, they may be more open to engaging in efforts to rid themselves of their own biases and to understanding how others can be biased without knowing it. Such efforts are not just scientifically sensible, they are socially wise.

So there is hope.

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