If You are Human, You Are Biased

Did you know people in supermarkets buy more French wine when French music is playing in the background, and more German wine when the music is German? And that doctors treat patients differently when the patients are overweight, and hat patients treat doctors differently when the doctors are overweight?

Most importantly, did you know that all of these behaviors, and many more, happen without people realizing they are happening, and that these behaviors are demonstrations of biases? Human beings are consistently, routinely, and profoundly biased.

We not only are profoundly biases, but we also almost never know we are being biased. One of the great barriers to getting people to look at our own biases is the shame and guilt that come when we feel like we are being made to look as if we have done something wrong, or that we are under attack. This shame and guilt cause defensiveness and reduce the chances of reaching people.

These biases make an impact upon each and every aspect of our lives. They affect the way we respond to threats. They make an impact upon the way doctors and patients interact. They affect the judgements we make about others. In organizational life, they influence how we interview people, whom we hire, whom we give job assignments to, whom we promotoe, and whom we’re willilng to take a chance on. In fact, they make their mark upon virtually every aspect of organizational life. They also affect the way teachers educate students and how parents treat their own children.

Virtually, every important decision we make in life is influenced by these biases, and the more they remain in the unconscious, the less likely we are to make the best decisions we are able to make.

Summing-up: Most cases of bias are not conscious in origin at all. They are not decisions made because someone is ‘out to get’ somebody, but rather because all human beings have bias. Possessing bias is part and parcel of being human. And the more we think we are immune to it, the greater the likelihood that our own biases will be invisible or unconscious to us.

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