Friday, June 5, 2015

Let's look beyond the bias.

We all have some sort of bias, whether we accept it or not but we all have it. One can debate if that bias affects our thinking or not, whether we take our decisions based on that or not but we all have it. We all have certain likes and dislikes because of so many reasons and mainly they create a conscious or unconscious bias in our mind. I myself really try hard to overcome my own bias, sometimes I am successful and sometimes I am not. It is not a easy thing to do, many times I struggle but at least I know that I have that bias and I also know that this struggle is going to be a continuous and never ending battle in my mind so I need to deal with it on a daily basis. To understand why I try so hard to overcome my bias first we need to understand what bias does to our thinking. First thing which it does is, it directs our mind in particular direction. I realized it during phase of my life when I was learning to think independently. Our bias can be helpful or harmful to our thinking process, it depends on which direction it directs us and how strong that push is. It is also true that whatever type of bias we have slowly it becomes a part of our normal thinking process, based on whether we have positive or negative bias we tend to focus on only positive or negative aspects of that particular person or issue. For example, if I don't like Mr. Obama as a president for some reasons then I will have very strong bias against him. For example, if I don't like him because I don't support his political party then there are very high chances that I will focus only on negative aspects of his each and every speech, action or policy. I will find it really hard to notice any positive parts of his personality or actions. This happens because my dislike for his political party automatically transforms in dislike for his personality as he represent that political ideology, this thinking than automatically directs my mind to look only for negative aspects or flaws in each and everything he does. Same thing can happen with any other person or issue, if I don't like any particular religion or race I might find only negative things associated with that thing, I might overlook all positives associated with it as my mind has already decided that this thing is supposed to be bad so it can not have anything good. This is what bias does to our thinking and that is why we need to be aware of it and try to overcome it as much as possible. It may not be possible to completely overcome it but we can definitely minimize it by being aware of the fact that it exists and that is why we need to be careful before completely accepting or rejecting anything.

Now what is the difference between conscious bias and unconscious bias? Even though both result in same end result they are different. Conscious bias can be called as plain discrimination, where people knowingly behave in biased manure because of some prejudice, hatred or ignorance. We see this type of behaviour in many blind supporters of religion, political party, some leader or cult movement. It is easy to point out and recognize this type of biased behaviour. But unconscious bias is rooted somewhere deep in our minds and many times we are not even aware of it. This can be result of our upbringing, our surroundings, our culture or country we come from. We might dislike some religion or some race without even knowing why to dislike it, we might favor certain food just because we are accustomed of eating it from childhood without even knowing merits and demerits of that food. This type of bias also affects our thinking in certain way but we don't do it purposely, and if we don't take special efforts to eliminate it, it becomes integral part of our personality. First and foremost thing one need to do is to acknowledge that there is a bias in our thinking, then only we can work towards eliminating or reducing it. Many people refuse to accept that their views are biased, there is nothing wrong in accepting it but people just don't feel comfortable in accepting this thing. Taking particular stand or supporting some political party or ideology doesn't mean that that person is necessarily biased. One can get associated with any ideology without being biased towards it or against other ideologies which oppose it. But criticizing all other things blindly which doesn't agree with your views or opposing something without any rational reason or supporting data means there is some kind of bias. I personally support certain views and oppose some but I don't try to silence people opposing me or ridicule them. I always acknowledge that one issue can have many sides or problem can have many solutions and each side or solution can be a legitimate one. We need to recognize this diversity of opinion, then only there can be any useful discussion. In today's world everybody has some opinion almost about everything, the era of majority is always right doesn't exist in many countries, in a way this is a good thing and this is why we have many ongoing debates about various issues. It is very important for all of us to look beyond our biases so that we can not only listen but also understand what other people have to say. Let's try to look beyond our bias and try to have meaningful discussions.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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