Every single person’s brain passes information they receive through a filter before processing or storing it. Biases serve as this filter and they modify mostly what we see and hear in subtle ways for some people and for others in more dramatic ways.
Do You have a Bias?
In truth, everyone has biases. It is fundamentally how our brains work, always looking for shortcuts to save processing power for other things.
We build this filter over time from past experiences. These past experiences help our brains find patterns and eventually reinforce these patterns; ignoring anything that goes contrary to the bias formed.
Most biases are camouflaged in peoples mind; because if you knew you had biases and knew exactly the ones you had; they would be so easy to navigate.
Some biases have become so engrained that they can be easily traced to a generation. It becomes prevalent to the point of being woven into the existing culture of the people of that time period.
An example is Nigerians aged 50 years and above. Till today a lot of them believe that if you have a beard or your hair is not very short, then you are an unserious person. They don’t need to hear a word you say or even know where you are from, their decision has been made right from when they laid eyes on you.
The younger generation (35-year-olds and below) also have biases associated with them. An example would be seeing someone dressed in a flashy or weird outfit and immediately assuming they are in the entertainment industry.
What you might notice is that a lot of biases stem from some truth; but it is wrong to base decisions on these biases without confirming them first.
Confirming a Bias
This is the real reason biases are dangerous. If you have a bias, you need to gather information to ensure the bias doesn’t affect any decision you take. But gathering of this information is also influenced by your bias; you tend to cherry pick things that will support your bias. Anything that could reasonably object to your idea is thrown out.
Confirmation bias is so prevalent because while you are doing it, you are mostly unaware. Your mind may try to justify why an opposing point is thrown out, the justification could be weak, but you agree just to throw it out. This is the reason fake news circulates so quickly and it is difficult to change people’s minds with articles that say otherwise.
Are Biases Dangerous?
As I said earlier, everyone has them; understand this fact and you have already won half of the battle. It is how we manage biases that determines if they will be dangerous or not.
Biases act as a fuel for some stereotypes that are sometimes harmless. Like Asians being good at math or blacks being good at sport; but has also served as the roots for more dangerous things like tribalism and racism.
Biases are not inherently dangerous, understanding them and being aware of them is enough to ensure that they don’t control you.