Bias refers to the tendency of the person to lean towards a particular factor or thing, either in its favour or against it. In general, we can see that bias is the inability of the person to view a certain situation from a neutral point of view. When the person is biased towards anything, then the person is highly probable to think positively of every aspect of that thing, hence the person leans favourably toward that thing. On the other hand, if the person is biased against anything, then the person is highly probable to think negatively of every aspect of that thing, hence the person leans negatively towards that thing. Biases can be conscious or unconscious, and these can be commonly observed in almost every activity that we do in our everyday life, whether choosing a particular item to eat from the restaurant menu or hiring the employees for the company. Biases can impact the decisions we make and mislead us, hence it is very necessary that we should be aware of all the biases that we face in our everyday life so that we can make decisions accurately without falling victim to the various biases. Here in this article, we’ll discuss some common biases examples that we may encounter in our daily life.
Bias Examples in Real Life
1. Name Bias
Name bias is generally seen in the workplace. In a study, it was found that although the level of experience and other factors provided by the white people and the African American people were the same in their resume’s, the white names got a significantly higher number of interview calls than the African American names. In a similar study, it was observed that the people with the Anglo last names received a higher number of calls than the people with Asian last names. This bias makes the hiring process impartial as the hiring managers may select the candidates based on the candidate’s names rather than their experience and skills. The name bias can be avoided by omitting the names or any other personal information from the application form before the interview process. This enables the hiring manager to hire the suitable candidate without getting affected by any biases due to the personal information of the candidate.
2. Confirmation Bias
Confirmation bias refers to the tendency of the person to interpret any new information in a way such that it supports (confirms) his/her previously existing believes or values. People usually neglect or ignore any piece of information that does not fit into their previously stored information. The person is more likely to fall for this bias when the information is deeply related to his/her emotions and beliefs. It is difficult to eliminate the confirmation bias, but one can manage it by implying critical thinking skills and with certain training.
According to Edgar & Edgar, 2016; Nickerson, 1998
Confirmation bias is based on looking for an overevaluating information that confirms our beliefs or expectations”
Following are some of the areas, where confirmation bias is largely seen,
Confirmation bias is largely seen in social media. This bias is the main reason that why people view certain news or information from a subjective point of view and find it difficult to judge any situation objectively. The spread of fake news has risen with the rise in social media, people easily believe in the news that they feel more trustworthy according to their biases.
Scientific studies involve discovering new phenomenons of the universe and confirming them by using various scientific researchers and applying inductive and deductive reasoning. The confirmation biases can deeply impact the researchers or the scientists from arriving at an accurate conclusion. It is observed in many studies that most scientists usually ignore many new report findings due to their selective interpretation and they favour the data that is in accordance with their previous beliefs, they tend to ignore or misinterpret the report findings that do not fit with their previous beliefs. A study to find the impact of the MMR vaccine on autism, conducted in 1998 by Andrew Wakefield is a famous example of the confirmation bias in scientific research. It was found that Wakefield fell victim to confirmation bias as he ignored and manipulated a lot of the research data to establish the connection between the vaccine and autism, his study was withdrawn from the British Medical Journal in the year 2010.
Confirmation bias may involve in the decision made by the investors, this bias can lead them to ignore certain facts and be overconfident about their decisions based on the previously made profits. It was found in a study that investors are more likely to make profits when they make the decisions without any biases. Hence, it is necessary to control the biases while making financial decisions, this can be controlled by using various techniques, one of which is imagining that your decision made a loss and you have to figure out what could have been the possible reasons for that.
Earlier, forensic science was not that well advanced as it is nowadays. The assumptions of the expected criminal were made on the statements of the eyewitness. But, confirmation bias can make the eyewitnesses give misinterpreted or wrong statements. There are hundreds of cases available in the criminal justice system where the innocent person fell under the suspicion due to confirmation bias. For example, a person who hates dogs may think that the dog is trying to attack the innocent child but a dog lover may assume that the dog is defending itself from the child who was throwing stones at the dog. We can not say that which information is right out of them due to the confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias is largely seen in religious views. People who believe in religion associate any positive outcome with the miracle of god and any negative outcome with the ‘test of faith in god.’ If the person is biased towards a particular religion, he/she will think that his/her religion is far superior to the other religion, and if the person is biased against any revision he/she will be hatred towards that religion by passing rude comments. People fail to understand that peace is the ultimate goal of every religion rather than spreading hatred and showing supremacy of his/her religion.
3. Gambler’s Bias
According to Ayton & Fischer, 2002: Clotfelter & Cook, 1993
Gambler’s fallacy is a false belief that describes our tendency to believe that something will happen because it hasn’t happened yet”
Most of us fall victim to the Gambler’s bias while tossing. For example, while tossing the coin, if the head has arrived in the first outcome, then we might believe that the tail will arrive in the next outcome; however, the probability of arriving either the head or the tail is the same as both the events are independent.
4. Gender Bias
In gender bias, one is more likely to favour one gender over the other. Gender bias is often referred to as another term, i.e., sexism. The main cause behind this bias is the association of some stereotypes with the different genders. Gender bias is often seen in various departments and organizations. This bias is commonly observed in the workplace, the gender pay gap is the prime example of gender bias. According to a study, men receive around 18 per cent higher average median salary than women. The gender biases are also seen in the hiring process, a study shows that the male candidate was more favoured over the female candidate by the hiring panel even though the skill set and experience of both the candidate groups, i.e., male candidates and female candidates were same. Due to gender bias, a certain population may get devoid of career growth. It is generally seen that the percentage of women acquiring the higher position in the companies is lesser than the males, a similar scenario is also seen in the parliaments or assemblies of different countries. Gender bias in the workplace can be reduced by opting for a gender-neutral recruitment process, for example, the companies should avoid the gender pay gap and salaries should be given according to the skills and the experience of the employees rather than based on gender. The companies should maintain a gender-balanced team and equal opportunities should be provided to each gender.
According to a study conducted by Güngör and Biernat in 2005,
… 68.1% of married and 79.8% of single mothers in the U.S. participate in the workforce, but while non-mothers earn 90 cents to a man’s dollar, mothers earn 73 cents, and single mothers earn about 60 cents.”
Here are some more examples that show gender bias according to various studies.
- Females are considered as the better caretaker than males (Antony, 2004)
- Male lecturers are often rated higher than the female lecturer by the student (MacNEll, Driscoll, & Hunt; 2014: Mitchell & Martin, 2018)
- Some particular clinical syndromes were more easily diagnosed in females than in males (Garb, 1997)
5. Group Attribution Bias
Imagine a scenario, you went to a new shopping mall, and you got robbed by a person there. Now, what would be your viewpoint towards that mall? Chances are that you will never visit that shopping mall again as you consider that the mall does not have any security. You made the assumption about the mall by your bad experience with one person, this is what we call group attribution bias. According to Pettigrew,1979, the tendency of the person to generalise his/her experience with a single person, over the whole group (culture, political party, gender, religion, etc.,) is known as the group attribution error or bias. In other words, our bad experience with one person belonging to a specific group, makes us believe that the whole group is bad.
6. Bias in Decision Making
Let us understand the impact of biases on our decision-making process with an example of an American game show named ‘Let’s Make a Deal.’ In this game, the participants are asked to choose one out of the three doors. According to the presenter, an amazing prize says the car is placed behind one of the doors, and some mediocre prizes are placed behind the other two doors. Now, suppose you have chosen door no. 1, but you are not yet revealed that what is placed behind door no.1. The show’s presenter opens door no. 2 and revealed the mediocre prize. Now, the presenter gives you two options to choose from. The first option is that open the door you have already chosen, i.e., door no.1 and reveal what’s behind that door or you can change your option and choose another door, i.e., door no.3. Now, what would you do? Would you stay firm with your 1st choice, i.e., door no.1 or would you choose door number 3? This is popularly known as the Monty Hall problem, which is named after the original host of this show, Monty Hall. It is observed that most of the people stay firm with their first choice and neglect to choose the other door. This trend is generally seen as people believes that both of the doors are equally likely to have the prize (car) behind them, i.e., the chances are 50/50, but the right answer to the Monty Hall problem is that you should change your choice because you are more probable to win the car if you choose another option as the probability to win the prize is 66 per cent if you switch the door. This may seem unrealistic, but the following image can give you a better insight into this probability.
7. Anchoring Bias
According to the anchoring bias, the estimates or decisions of a person are highly determined by the piece of information that we encounter first. Let’s understand it with an example, you want to buy a chandelier for your home, but you don’t have much idea of how much will it cost you. You went to a nearby shop and ask for the chandelier, you liked a chandelier but it costs 500 dollars, which is higher than your budget. The salesman recognized that and shows you a similar chandelier and says you that this chandelier is at a 50 per cent discount today. You feel it as an amazing deal, and buy that chandelier, but little did you know that the same chandelier is available at the 200 dollars on another store. Well, the reality is that you fell victim to the anchoring bias and compared the price you paid for the chandelier (250 dollars) with the price of the chandelier that the salesman showed you first (500 dollars), and considered it as an amazing deal.
8. Halo Effect
The halo effect refers to a cognitive bias in which one is more likely to think positively of a particular thing (person, brand, company or any item) due to his/her positive opinions about that thing in other areas. The most common example of this bias is the attractiveness stereotype, which means that people tend to think a physically attractive person has more positive traits, qualities, and skills than a physically unattractive person. Let us understand it through a study conducted by Landy & Signal in 1974. In this study, the male participants had to rate some articles written by the female writers. The quality of the articles was different, some articles were not well written, and some of them were of very high quality. In some articles, photographs of the writers were also attached. It was found that the male participants gave a higher rating to the articles when the photograph of the writer was more attractive, this bias was more evident when the articles were of poor quality. Hence, the male participants showed the halo effect bias by associating the perceived attractiveness of the author’s photograph with their written articles.
9. Bias in Choosing Your Neighbourhood and Friend Circle
When you look for buying or renting a home, what are the things that you think of? Apart from looking for the basic requirements such as hospitals or schools near the house, and other basic things, you also look at the type of neighbourhood. Your decisions of selecting a particular house are largely dependent upon the type of neighbourhood. You are more likely to choose the neighbourhood that belongs to the same, caste, religion or ethnicity as yours. This bias gives you a sense of trust in your neighbours as they belong to the same domain as yours. According to the report of a Poll,
a majority of whites (69%) say the people they live around are mostly of the same race as them, while Hispanics predominantly say they live around people of other races (59%). Blacks are split, with 51% saying they live around people of other races and 41% saying they live around mostly other black people.”
Now, think of your three best friends, there are high chances that they might belong to the same race, religion, or caste as yours. It is the most common bias that we see on the daily basis. Imagine it’s your first day in a school or college, you entered the class and you see a number of students talking with each other. In this group, you see a person that is taking in the same accent as your native place. Of course, you are more likely to talk to that person because of the biases.
10. In-group Biases
It’s a human tendency that we judge a particular bad action done by a stranger more harshly than if that same action has had been performed by a person belonging to our own group (family, friends, or knowns). In-group biases lead the person do unfair judgments, people tend to accept some people while condemning other people for the same action due to this bias. Politics is a prominent example of ingroup biases. If you are a member of a particular political party, you tend to support your political party and oppose another political party even if the politician of both parties are showing the same poor behaviour. In-group biases are commonly seen in sports fans too. If you are a big fan of a particular team, you are most likely to think negatively about the person who supports your favourite team’s rival. If you view this situation objectively you may realise that there should be nothing to feel negatively about the other person because there’s a lot of common things between you and that person say you both love the same sport; however, due to in-group biases, you tend to view that person negatively. In-group biases can be seen from school bullying to large scale wars that happen due to religions or racial groups.
11. Non-Verbal Biases
We all know the influence of non-verbal communication on other people. Non-verbal communication involves the factors like the way one walks, body language and eye contact. When you meet any person for the first time, you tend to fall for non-verbal biases. You tend to assume a certain person is good or bad on the basis of his/her non-verbal communication skills. In the interview process, if the person does a weak handshake, or does not hold eye contact, or is folding his/her arms, we tend to think that person is less skilled than the person with good non-verbal communication skills, even though the former is better at performing the assigned task than the latter. One should understand that non-verbal communication does not mark a person as a less skilled or poor performer as it can be learned too.
12. Self-Serving Bias
Have you ever heard people saying that “I failed the exam because the professor hates me,” “I win the trophy because I worked very hard?” People tend to attribute the positive outcomes (success) to themselves, but they tend to attribute the negative outcomes (failure) to other people, this is called self-serving biases. One should carefully analyse that who is responsible for the particular outcome rather than misinterpreting the outcomes and judging it in a way that makes them feel relieved. Due to self-serving bias, people neglect to take responsibility for the bad action they have committed and blame another person for the same, for example, it is found in a study that rapist blames women for wearing certain types of clothes rather than blaming their own bad mentality for committing the rape.
13. Optimism and Pessimism Bias
Optimism and Pessimism Bias makes a person overestimate the probability of a positive outcome, mainly if he/she is in good mood (optimistic), and overestimate the probability of negative outcomes if he/she is feeling low (pessimistic). Hence, one should carefully make decisions when in an extremely happy or extreme sad mood because emotions can make us fall victim to the optimism and pessimism bias.
14. Hindsight Bias
Hindsight bias is a phenomenon that makes the person convinced that he/she predicted the event accurately before its occurrence. This bias is also known as creeping determinism and the ‘knew it all along’ phenomenon. For example, you may start feeling that you knew your team is not going to win the match, while the reality is that you have never thought like that before the starting of the match. Another example of this bias is people feels like that they already knew that a particular party will win the elections, even they had different views before the results came. Due to this bias people tend to believe that the particular event was easier to predict while in reality, it was not. Some people blame themselves and feel guilty if they face any negative outcome because they think that they already knew this will going to happen and they still did not manage to control something that they already knew. While the reality is they fell victim to the hindsight bias, hence one needs to carefully analyse that whether the particular outcome was really predictable or not. Hindsight bias can badly impact learning if we believe that we already knew what someone is trying to teach us. Students often think like that and they did not pay much attention to the concepts that they believe they already know while the reality is that they miss some important points that the teacher is trying to explain.
15. Bias in Media
News channels are supposed to be unbiased in their work, it’s their duty to report honest and biased free stories. However, most of the media outlets fail to do so and fall the victim to the various biases. Following are the different types of biases that are commonly seen in the media.
Advertising bias means that the media channel will choose only those stories that will attract the advertiser. For example, Say the company X is the major sponsor of the particular media channel. That media channel will only highlight the positive articles related to company X and may publish the negative articles related to other similar companies.
It means that the media outlet prefers to report or publish that news that can be summarized in a few words rather than the type of news that demands lengthy explanations. Some of the researches prove that the average attention span of people is only 8 seconds, which is the reason the media outlets chooses short stories with catchy phrases as the news headlines to grab the attention of the readers. In other words, it involves the careful section of the short stories rather than publishing lengthy and detailed pieces of articles to engage more readers.
It involves selecting only those particular stories that please the owner of that particular media outlet.
It involves reporting the same news as the other media channels are reporting so that the viewers or the readers do not switch to other media channels or newspapers even though there is more important news that demands the media attention.
16. Conformity Bias
Conformity bias refers to the tendency of the person to adopt certain behaviour and act in a manner so that he/she feels like fitting in a particular group. The hiring process by the group panel is a common example of conformity bias in the workplace. It is generally seen that when the hiring panel discusses the recruitment of a particular candidate after the interview process, some of the members did not put their opinions as strongly as it does not match with the majority. The reality is that the majority is not always right and the valid option of a particular member of the panel may go unnoticed due to the conformity bias.
17. Availability Heuristic Bias
It refers to the tendency of a person to judge the probability of occurrence of any event on the basis of the number of examples that immediately comes to one’s mind. For example, if you daily encounter the news of the gold-chain robbery, you may start believing that the gold-chain robbery is more common in your locality than any other crime, or you may think that your plane will crash as several plane crash news you read in last few days immediately comes to your mind. A smoker who has seen his/her close relative dining because of smoke-related diseases is more likely to leave the smoking than the one who has never seen any death due to the smoking in his/her family or friend circle. Availability Heuristic is basically a mental shortcut to rapidly determine the risk involved in the particular task; however, relying on it can lead us to make poor judgements or estimations.
18. The False Consensus Bias
It refers to the tendency of the people to overestimate that the other people also share the same beliefs, opinions, or values as them. For example, overestimating the number of people in your school or office that they think are similar to you or believing that majority of the people prefer the same item as you prefer. This usually happens due to the reason that we spend most of our time with our families or friends, which often share similar opinions, hence we often think the same when we are with other people that many or may not have the same opinions.
Ways to Overcome Biases While Making Decisions
It is difficult to get rid of biases as at one or the other point we tend to use conscious or unconscious biases but they can be controlled. Here are some of the points that can help you to overcome these biases.
- One should always reflect on the impact of the decisions that he/she made in the past if dealing with a similar situation. Let us understand this through budgeting, we usually tend to underestimate the amount of money that is required in the particular areas; however one can predict the amount of money to be required for a particular area of life, in the future, by analysing his/her expenditures in the past in that particular areas.
- According to Caputo, the negotiations and the decisions that we make after consulting with the other people (mediators and facilitators) who objectively view the situation, is far better than making the decisions all alone. Hence, one should always ask for other people’s opinions before arriving at a certain conclusion.
- One should imply critical thinking while making any decisions. Always be ready to challenge your own viewpoints and try to find any kind of biases or weaknesses that you might have had made while making a particular decision.
- One should never make any decisions under any time or social constraints. People are highly probable to fall the victim to biases under any kind of pressure. It’s always better to analyse the pros and cons before making any decision.