Bias: How We Interpret the World with Our Feelings

Bias is the noise above reason and wisdom, but is it always bad?  What role does it play in decision making and in governing our actions?

It is always easy to believe the voice of my own bias. I have always heard it. ~ www.jaywren.com

Bias: How We Interpret the World with Our Feelings

Bias is the visceral, negative, or positive feelings that we have about a person, place, or thing.  These feeling simplifies our lives to interpret the world to our liking.  It bypasses our ability to reason.  Also, it is that noisy voice that drowns out wisdom.

Although perceived as bad, like any emotion, biases have positive and negative effects.  It is an emotional voice that tells us what to think and do.

This voice is an essential element of human nature.  Patriotism, faith, political ideology, and fandom sit atop our biases.  The powerful effect of bias can bring us together to form successful groups.  In the sports or business, the voice of our feelings motivates us to become more powerful competitors.

Additionally, these feelings can make life fun.  The excitement, love, and joy we feel for our sports team, political party, religion, or family members come from these feelings.

We hear the word “biased” often from the proud parent who brags about a child.  The parent closes with, “Of course, I am not biased.” Nod, nod, wink.

Furthermore, these feelings bring us internal peace.  They help us overcome doubt and fear.  Bias can create healthy, positive emotions that carry us through periods of uncertainty.

At other times, bias can create tension when our feelings conflict with the feelings of other people.  Discussing religion, sports, politics, and other personal feelings in any place where people don’t share those feelings can undermine the bonds of loyalty to a team or a company.

A Healthy Relationship with Our Biases

Since bias has beneficial effects and adverse effects on how we think, having a healthy relationship with these feelings is important.

The first step in building a healthy relationship with our biases is recognizing that we have them.

Unlike the emotions that float through our daily lives, biases become hard-wired to our beliefs.  These feelings respond to triggers. When we hear or see things that instantly and subconsciously stir our emotions, the noisy voice of bias can drown out the voice of reason.

We believe in the things that we like.  We get angry when we hear or sear things that we don’t like.  When we interpret the world as good or evil based on our emotions, it is difficult for us to know what is true or false in the world.  Likewise, it is easy for biases to deceive us into making bad decisions.