Contrary to popular opinion, bias itself is not inherently wrong.  The definition of bias includes (

an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially: a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment.

For example, I happen to have a bias about the law of gravity.  My inclination or outlook is (barring supernatural intervention) the law of gravity will hold consistently.  Therefore, when I am in situations involving significant heights, I endeavor to be especially careful.  I allow my instinct for self-preservation to have free reign.  Moreover, I am still alive!  My bias about the law of gravity happens to be a good bias.  It works well for me.

On the other hand, bias becomes wrong when we move into that realm of, “unreasoned judgment.”  We should reject this kind of bias.  Challenging unreasoned judgments should be a daily task.  We might encounter this kind of bias in other people and (dare I say it?) in ourselves.

As long as we are human, unreasoned judgment will plague us.  We must recognize it when it happens, and take corrective action to mitigate that bias.  Writing in The Atlantic, Nicole Allan summarizes two significant studies in bias (“Karen vs. Kevin” May 2013, p. 16):

In an oft-cited experiment from 2006, students in two New York University classes read case studies about a tech entrepreneur who in some versions was named Heidi and in others, Howard.  The students rated Heidi and Howard as equally competent, but liked Heidi less and didn’t want to work with her. . . . A 2000 study found that female musicians advanced 50 percent more often in orchestra auditions when their gender was masked.

These sorts of social and professional inequities should never occur.  The sad reality is they do occur.  You and I have our work cut out for us.  Yes, I know sometimes this is easier said than done.  Nevertheless, we must never give up the noble fight.

About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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