“Bias” is one of those words that automatically sounds bad, whereas “unbiased” is an unalloyed good. Yet, that automatic understanding of what bias means is itself biased. At bottom, a bias is a tendency, a leaning, and in the process of making our way in the world, human beings developed a lot of leanings. Life requires us to act quickly and if we already have a certain tendency built in, we can respond on the spot.
Biases can be helpful.
At its most basic level, bias is part of our mental equipment for surviving and thriving. We learn to be biased away from food that looks and smells funky. If the ground underfoot is shaky or slippery, we avoid it. If we hear a loud noise coming from the children’s room, we are biased toward checking it out. On a more refined level, our upbringing or moral code or religion may instill in us a bias toward being kind to people and giving them the benefit of the doubt. The Golden Rule is a form of bias.
At its most basic level, bias is part of our mental equipment for surviving and thriving.
Bias can be incredibly…