Where Do Biases Start? A Challenge To Educators
Overcoming bias is difficult to do. It is prevalent in nearly all aspects of society and in everyone. Some people strive to identify and overcome their bias while others could care less. Bias affects what sources we look, what we think, believe, and act. It can be in innocuous ways such as favoring a restaurant that is owned by a family or friend or it can take the form of pervasive and damaging perspectives such as racism.
The Different Types Of Bias
While bias can take many different forms, here are some of the most common ones that people fall prey to:
- Confirmation Bias- The subconscious desire/act to find information or sources that reinforce our already pre-existing views while not seeking out, or easily dismissing, contrary opinions
- Bandwagon Effect- Also known as “Groupthink” this type of bias comes into play when a large portion of a group believes something and the remaining members agree, usually without a deep evaluation of the position, based simply on the fact that most others are believing it
- Affinity Bias- When someone interacts (talk, read, listen, etc.) with someone that they think they have a lot in common with, whether it is the same skin color, hometown, college, political/religious views, etc., they’re more likely to agree with or support that individual because a sense of connection is made
While there are many other types of biases, these are three primary ones that shape many of our everyday interactions.
Origin Of Bias
Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt studied the beginnings of racial bias and published her findings in her book Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do. In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) she succinctly stated that babies by the age of just three months prefer the faces of their own race.
This is an example of what is called “implicit bias” and are formed by early life experiences and messages, both direct and indirect, and even the type of media, games, etc. that young children are exposed to lay the foundation for their implicit bias growing up. Implicit bias affects the viewing of everything from age, weight, politics, disabilities, sexuality, religion, and much more.
Role Of Educators
Educators play an important role when it comes to the topic of bias. Not only are teachers told to not let their bias, especially political and religious, play a part in their classroom so they can encourage a neutral learning environment but also to allow for the expression and discussion of different viewpoints. By doing so, it combats many forms of bias (such as the three listed above) by openly discussing different viewpoints.
This is pivotal for young children and adults to experience and be put into a position to wrestle with the different biases they might have and overcome them or at the very least acknowledge them.
Bias is here to stay. While no one can ever completely remove their biases the first step is understanding that people aren’t perfect and there are many factors that go into why someone thinks or believes what they do. Educators play an important role in removing the veil kids inadvertently might grow up behind.