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Three Forms of Bias Impacting Our World in 2020

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Which 3 forms of bias are most prevalent today?

Biases are a reality in life and affect how we live our lives and even build our communities and workplaces. From an evolutionary perspective, bias is the cognitive mechanism that has allowed humans to quickly identify danger which is why I affectionately like to say, “if you have a brain you have bias”. While there are almost countless forms of bias, I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss three forms of bias that are playing larger roles in impacting our current business and social climate.

Understanding these biases can go a long way in changing the way we acquire information, host conversations, and drive progress and innovation in our homes, communities, and workplaces.

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Confirmation Bias

Definition:

Confirmation bias happens when we warp data, research, or information to fit our pre-established beliefs, ideas, and opinions. Confirmation bias can also occur by simply ignoring or dismissing information that conflicts with one’s pre-established opinions while augmenting and prioritizing any information that confirms those opinions.

How it manifests today:

In today’s climate, the obvious area where this impacts us most is in our political views. Often we have a set of ideals we are subconsciously eager to confirm. This continues to play a significant role in manifesting a divisive social climate that plagues our ability to drive synergy and progress in various areas.

What we can do:

Making a concerted effort to find the potential flaws in our own logic is a great place to start. Interacting in respectful conversations with people of different opinions than ours can also be an impactful catalyst for further exploration and understanding of various issues. Ultimately, this empowers us to realize that most topics/debates are complex which in turn gives us more ability to listen and understand with empathy and compassion.

Unconscious Bias

Definition

Unconscious Bias encompasses the stereotypes about various groups and people that occur outside of conscious awareness. Unconscious bias is far more common than conscious prejudice, and everyone possesses some form of unconscious bias formed by various factors and influences.

How it manifests

Unconscious bias plays a significant role in perpetuating certain harmful stereotypes that have serious community and even professional ramifications. From age, gender, ethnicity, and race, to the way people drive, whether they have tattoos, their level of education, where they live, etc., these factors are powerful and deeply embedded influences that impact the way we see people around us. This unconscious bias results in affinity biases formed when we are drawn to people like us. Because communities and workplaces alike are built by people, this further perpetuates biases affecting various social and even business transformations.

What we can do

Recognize when opinions we have about others are commonly uncorrelated even if they seem like they may be. Do education, tattoos, gender, race, and more impact the nuances of one’s ability to perform at work or in daily life? The answer is no. Also, forcing ourselves to be mindful of affirmation bias is a powerful first step. This introspective process empowers us to interact and connect with others in a genuine way that cuts through the vainer aforementioned factors.

Availability Cascade

Definition

Another of the most common and impactful forms of biases, Availability Cascade occurs when we believe something just because we hear it frequently. Just because many sources are putting out an idea does not make it true, though the brain sure likes to believe otherwise.

How it manifests

If you are actively on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, you have likely been exposed to this. In a digital age, true information and false information spread like wildfire. This dynamic contributes directly to misinformation, confusion, and divisiveness and allows potentially false information to further propagate the previous two forms of bias.

What we can do

We also stand to benefit by embracing the fluidity of the ongoing situation realizing that new developments continue to be small pieces of a growing puzzle. From racial equality to COVID-19 safety strategies, and company culture transformation, we stand to benefit by respecting and acknowledging the complexities of pressing topics while also being solution-minded. Lastly, in a world of unlimited media, it always pays to fact-check, fact-check, and fact-check again.

SOME RESOURCES: EbooksPodcasts | Virtual Workplace Checklist|Inclusive Leadership Development Plan|Webinars

Parting Questions

Can a simple awareness of our biases help advance progress or is further action needed? Which of these forms of bias currently has the most negative impact on today’s social climate? What can we do to conquer bias?

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