Bias

A hand selects the one red apple among many green applesBias is a tendency to favor one explanation, opinion, or understanding over another perspective that is potentially equally valid.

What Is Bias?

Everyone operates with some degree of bias, and bias greatly colors the way we see the world. Several studies, for example, have documented that people are much more likely to accept information that comports with their worldview than information that undermines it.

There are numerous types of biases, a few of which include:

  • Confirmation bias – the tendency to notice information that supports one’s beliefs and to ignore information that does not. For example, a researcher who believes women are less strong than men might not use studies that show women being strong or might explain information differently than a researcher who has no bias.
  • Political and religious biases – Biases in favor of political or religious beliefs. For example, a person who believes that God answers prayers is unlikely to abandon this belief even when his or her prayers are not answered.
  • Heuristics – Heuristics are cognitive shortcuts for understanding the world, and these can create bias. For example, a person might have a heuristic that creates a vision for a stereotypical woman and may then tend to see all women in light of this stereotype, even when he or she meets women that defy the stereotype.
  • Selection bias – A tendency in scientific research to select study subjects who are not part of the general population or who confirm a researcher’s biases. For example, a researcher who believes that men are less verbal than women might choose men who are less verbal than average.

Bias in Psychology

Bias in psychological research can undermine the progression of knowledge and alter treatment recommendations for mental health conditions. In a therapeutic setting, a therapist’s individual biases might alter the recommendations he or she makes to clients or influence his or her understanding of a person’s problems. Recognizing one’s own biases is often the first step to eliminating bias, because this allows a researcher the opportunity to actively correct for one’s biases. Double-blind studies and peer review can also help to counteract the biases of individual researchers.

Reference:

  1. How to spot bias. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.syr.edu/currentstudents/stopbias/whatisbias.html
  2. Panucci, C. J., & Wilkins, E. G. (2011, August 1). Identifying and avoiding bias in research. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 126(2). 619-625. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e3181de24bc
  3. United States Department of Justice. (n.d.). Understanding bias: A resource guide. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/crs/file/836431/download

Last Updated: 09-26-2016

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  • patrick

    patrick

    January 12th, 2017 at 5:40 PM

    I believe i am the victim of an unethical therapist. I, until recently lived with my fiance at her home for four years. Everything was fine, then just after Christmas, i was asked to leave immediately without any reason, which i did. Her daughter lives downstairs, a single mom with her two children, a boy 12, and a girl 14. we were always good to each other and there was never any serious issues, although i tended to joke around a lot, which is my personality, and sometimes got carried away to the point of an apology or two. The daughter is seeing a therapist once a week, and has been for a long time because of a molestation that occurred when she was approximately four, and the man was my fiance’s boyfriend. Her fourteen year old daughter has her own issues requiring some form of medication, however i always treated her with kindness and positive reinforcement. The boy is well adjusted enough, and we would play catch sometimes because he is so much into sports. I had some run ins with the 14 year old such as her presenting herself to me half naked, when no one was around, laying on the floor and spreading her legs, then closing them, calling it a “rug angel,” but i knew not to pay any obvious attention to it, and chocked it up to teens pushing their boundaries. My fiance and i were having some issues that we were working through, but it came as a complete surprise to me when she, her daughter and her new boyfriend, along with one of my fiance’s friends came in and told me i had to leave that night, so i did without question as the new boyfriend looked like he wanted a reason to belt me one. Later, i found that the daughter, under the suggestion of her therapist, record everything i said to her so that she, the therapist could inform her as to whether i was harmful or a threat to her family. I am docile, and never did i ever see this form of therapy where people around the patient were diagnosed simply by listening to brief excerpts from hand picked recordings! i am lost without my love, and we still will see each other, but the daughter forbids me on the property, and is denying her mother any happiness.

  • carefreebear

    carefreebear

    April 22nd, 2017 at 1:11 PM

    Oh wow that sounds unthinkable. Like for one I don’t it was right for her to record you in the first place and it is even more surprising that her therapist would suggest such a thing. Do you think the daughter had any sort of resentment towards you at all before all this had happened?

  • Michael

    Michael

    June 14th, 2017 at 9:30 AM

    I feel i am the victim of bias therapy me and my girlfriend of 9 years saw therapist we are an interacial couple with two kids and first the lady was seeing my girlfriend then she saw us together an the therapist seemligy was taking her side would not let me finish a statement and for the most part ignored what i said and defended my girlfriend and basically mocked me i feel i should report her what should i do and i found myself more defending myself then anything else

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