Bias and Practice

Bias is a term used to describe a tendency or preference towards a particular perspective, ideology, or result. Often bias is most apparent when the tendency demonstrated interferes with the ability to be impartial, unprejudiced, or objective.

Simply put, bias pertains to the choices that we would make if we woke up one morning and were given absolute power to make any changes that we could without repercussion. Bias reflects what we hold as important in our world based on what we believe is acceptable. Biases are difficult to manage or change for the following reason:

“People do not like to admit that they are wrong, even if provided evidence to the contrary”.

Bias is perpetuated through many channels in our society. It can be:

Cultural– interpreting or judging actions based on one’s culture. For example, some countries cite American tourists as being some of the worst travelers in the world because we expect other countries to make unreasonable attempts to cater to our needs in respect to signage, menus, and enmities placed in hotel rooms.

Ethnic or racial
– an example of this is nationalism. Nationalism refers to the devotion to the interests or culture of one’s nation. International soccer violence in the past few years has escalated due to the rise in nationalistic thought equating superiority to winning. Since nations identify heavily with their soccer teams, losing is seen as a cultural deficit.

Geographic– the best example of this can probably be seen in the way we perceive persons living in different parts of the United States. The west coast is seen as a region where people are more “laid back”, while the east coast is seen as “fast paced”. Northerners are generally believed to be more educated than Southerners.

Media– real or perceived bias of journalists and news producers in the mass media in the selection of events reported and how they are covered. MSNBC for example is seen by many as a “liberal” outlet for news, while Fox is seen by others as a “conservative” outlet for news.

Gender– this relates to sexism. Historically women have been subjected to an ideal which tells them that they need to stay at home, be docile and follow the lead of men.

Personal– bias used which results in personal gain. Often, people hire based on a perceived comfort level with an individual, even though they may not know the person intimately. For instance, hiring a person because they happen to have the same passion for golf that you do, knowing you would like to have a potential golfing partner on staff.

Religious– bias for or against religion, faith or beliefs. Not allowing for alternative testing for a student who is celebrating a religious holiday because of the teacher’s belief that the student’s religion is flawed is an example of this.

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