Are you biased?

Bias /ˈbīəs/

noun

Inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair

(source: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/bias)

You are biased. You are a person. It is our nature to be biased. And that helps us to survive. But is that bad? How can we try to be less biased?

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The experiences you have had from your very first breath (and maybe before that) have created a complex decision-making machine. Every thought you have is affected by all of the experiences that made you the person that you are right now.

In professional and social circles, shared beliefs and values bring people together and also create and reinforce similar biases. A bias towards helping the community is a positive bias. We reward ourselves and others for serving. But is it fair that in applying for a job you might lose out because you don’t have volunteer work on your resume?

If being completely objective is ideal then the best we can do is to try to strive for that. So how can we practice objectivity? Some deeply analytical people may be capable of shedding their cognitive biases and by reviewing facts and discarding all of their emotions (psychologists frequently warn against compartmentalizing) they can make decisions or judgments that are mostly free of bias. For the rest of us, we need to try to remain open-minded. How can you do that? Seek out the opinions of others. Go to a place you wouldn’t ordinarily go, talk to someone you wouldn’t usually converse with, and ask them for their opinion. Your friends and family, fellow students, people of the same age group are all likely to share some of the same biases that you have.

Most importantly, be aware of your biases. Know when you are allowing your limited experiences to guide you toward a judgment or opinion. Consider some alternatives. Think creatively by imagining how someone else might feel differently than you. Developing this ability will help you understand your world differently, increase your ability to relate to others, increase your chances of success in business and personal relationships.

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