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How to Recognize and Address Biases

The Doe Team

by The Doe Team

| September 14, 2021

Understand the inner workings of biases so you can avoid making rash decisions or taking discriminatory actions.

Our personal history, beliefs, experiences, attitudes, preconceptions and environment shape how we think and interact with everything around us. Whether we’re conscious of them or not, we all have biases. 

But it doesn’t mean we should let biases shape our lives.

Understanding our biases—what they are and how we developed them—can help us navigate the world with a more open mind and engage in civil discourse more productively.

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What Is a Bias?

A bias is an unfair tendency, inclination or prejudice in favor of or against something or someone. An unconscious bias, or implicit bias, causes us to make decisions without being aware of our prejudice. 

Most of us acquired our biases from our upbringing and environment. They are also shaped by our socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, educational background and more.

So why are biases, especially unconscious biases, undesirable?

Biases are often based on stereotypes instead of facts about an individual, group or situation. They’re cognitive shortcuts that can cause prejudgments, leading to rash decisions or discriminatory actions.

Most people develop their biases from a young age, favoring those who are similar to them and discriminating against those who are different. These biases give them a sense of identity, belonging and safety. However, such an us-versus-them mentality often becomes detrimental.

At the individual level, biases can impact our relationships and prevent us from making sound decisions. At a societal level, they can cause unfair treatment or even persecution of a group.

What Are the Different Types of Bias?

The many factors that shape our biases also lead to many different types of biases. To prevent unconscious biases from tainting our judgments and actions, we must become aware of what they are and how they affect our decisions.

Here are some common biases that often affect our behaviors and decisions:

1. Similarity Bias

Similarity bias is the propensity to connect with people who have similar interests or experiences. This type of unconscious bias is common in the workplace where managers hire people “just like them” because of the instant connection.

2. Confirmation Bias

This type of bias is the prejudice to focus on information that supports our existing ideas. You might be exhibiting a confirmation bias if you follow only people who share your views or choose only news sources that support your standpoint.

3. Conformity Bias

Often referred to as peer pressure, conformity biases cause you to change your personal beliefs so you can fit in with a group.

4. The Halo Effect

Also known as the physical attractiveness bias, the halo effect causes you to make snap judgments about people based on their appearances (e.g., someone is intelligent because they are good-looking or well dressed.)

5. The Horn Effect

This unconscious bias is the flip side of the halo effect. It causes us to view a person negatively because of a trait.

6. Gender Bias

This bias refers to the preference of one gender over another, often due to stereotyping. While it historically works against women, it also affects men and people with other gender identities.

7. Name Bias

A study found that white names receive 50% more callbacks during interviews than African American names in the workplace. A person with name bias generally judges and prefers people with names of specific origins.

8. Nonverbal Bias

This bias refers to the influence of nonverbal communication qualities, such as body language, gestures and facial expression, on a person’s choice or opinions.

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How to Recognize Our Biases

Unconscious biases can prevent us from making rational decisions. Here’s what we can do to gain awareness of our biases and take control of our thoughts and actions:

Verify All Information

Fake information often seems powerful because it appeals to our emotions more than our logic.

Research and verify any information you receive before assimilating it, whether it’s from a friend, family or authority.

Challenge Your Points of View

Are you holding onto your beliefs because you have been conditioned to accept them or because they are true? Getting curious about your points of view can help identify your unconscious biases and change those that are no longer true or relevant.

Examine All Sides of an Argument

When we receive new information, our brain wants to make sense of the situation as quickly as possible, often using preconceived notions to elicit an instant judgment. Before making a decision, consider all the viewpoints before taking a stand.

Research the Subject Matter

Learn more about a topic before making a decision. You can gain unbiased information by identifying subject matter experts and authoritative sources, then reviewing the content they publish. Be aware of confirmation bias when you seek out these sources!

Awareness: The Key to Overcoming Biases

Unconscious biases are constantly around us and affect our worldview. Most of what you hear, read and see expresses a bias. Being conscious of the information you assimilate can help you think critically about how you make decisions and interact with others. 

This is why we are committed to providing a space for individuals to share their experiences through anonymous stories. These diverse narratives enable our readers to incorporate alternative perspectives and examine different sides of an issue without preconceptions about the author. 

Join The Doe to access tools and resources, read human stories and support your growth.

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