No two people see the world in exactly the same way. I am a twin. We are genetically similar, we were raised in the same environment, and yet we see the world differently. Two people can experience the exact same event, at the same time, and yet perceive it completely differently.
Sometimes our bias comes from our childhood.
Lets say there are two people in a grocery store and both witness a young girl strike at her mother, who had grabbed her arm in a forceful way. Neither saw what happened before this, yet both reach a conclusion regarding who was at fault.
The first bystander was raised by a very strict family who was told to always respect their elders. When she witnesses the child hitting her mother she believes the child is completely out of control. She thinks the child should be disciplined and taught to be more respectful. The child is clearly in the wrong.
The second witness was abused as a child and when she sees the mother grabbing the young girl, she remembers being grabbed herself. In this case the spectator feels anger toward the mother and fear for the child. She believes the daughter is defending herself and feels strongly that no parent should ever grab a child that way.
What really happened? Only the mother and daughter may ever know.
Sometimes our bias comes from what we are told.
You read your horoscope every morning and today it informs you that you’re going to get into a huge fight with someone close to you. Your husband walks into the room shortly after and tells you that he’s going out to meet some friends after work.
To you this feels like exactly the situation your horoscope warned you about. You haven’t even left for work yet and already it’s come true! You immediately feel angry. How can he be so inconsiderate?
When you start to yell at him he looks confused. He reminds you that you also have plans after work and that this was something that had been discussed just yesterday. Did something change?
Perhaps there’s a different argument in your future…
Sometimes our bias comes from our values.
On the one hand you have a man who is rich and powerful, who runs several companies and is always on the lookout for the next big deal. He has a beautiful wife and two kids he loves but sees mostly on the weekends when he comes out of his home office. On the other you have a single dad of modest means, a widower with two kids to take care of when he’s not working at his job as a grocery store manager. His evenings and weekends are taken up with the kids’ activities, homework and their evening tradition of reading together.
The children from both families attend the same private school (the widower’s children receive a scholarship to cover the tuition) and the annual Christmas concert is about to begin. The rich dad shows up late and stands at the back of the room in case he has to duck out to take a phone call. The widower stands just off stage, having volunteered to help out with the event.
One of the children refuses to go on stage, in tears because she is so scared. The rich dad checks the time for the 100th time, wondering when they will start. The widower comforts the distraught girl and tells her a funny story about his first time on a stage, eventually convincing her to take her place and allowing the concert to proceed.
Whose daughter is crying? Perhaps only one dad will ever know.
Bias may come from religious beliefs, cultural views, our gender, social class, education, political party or any number of other influences. If we are human we are biased. We use the information we’ve received in the past to help us process and understand what we see every day.
When we are aware of our bias we can control how it influences our view of the world and the decisions we make as a result. Here are 4 tips to get you started:
1. Practice simply being aware of how you react to certain situations.
2. Take a moment and try to see what is happening from a different perspective.
3. Engage your friends and family. Ask them their point of view; it’s likely to be different from yours.
4. Read more; open your mind and continue growing. You will experience a wider variety of influential information that will shift your thinking.
How will you choose to see the world?