TO BE HEARD
TWO: WE ARE ALL BIASED
Face up to yours!
counter of a Domino’s pizza shop. You choose chicken barbecue over pepperoni,
and it tastes delicious. Good call!
liked pepperoni pizza, so were you biased against it when you made your
decision? Yes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Biases can be useful,
helping us conserve our decision-making energy and deal with overwhelming
amounts of information. So instead of being paralyzed by the choice between
chicken barbecue, pepperoni, or one of the many other flavors, you end up with
a pizza you really like.
biases can have negative consequences, too. Here are just two ways our biases
can hamper our efforts to disagree productively:
manifest as a mental shortcut that the psychologist Daniel Kahneman terms the
availability heuristic. Essentially, when faced with a decision, we only
consider the options that we can immediately call to mind. Problem is, we all
have different availability heuristics. A solution or strategy that seems easy
to you might seem difficult, disadvantageous or downright dangerous to someone
else – and vice versa. When two or more availability heuristics clash,
disagreements can often arise.
In-group favoritism. We tend to give the benefit of the doubt to people who we
consider to be part of “our group”,
whether that’s someone who attended the same college as us or someone who votes
the same way we do. The bias can be particularly toxic during a disagreement.
While we’ll consider the arguments of people in our group, we’re apt to dismiss
the perspectives of people outside of it. This a surefire recipe for an unproductive
disagreement, and it narrows your worldview, too.
shortcuts have evolved to save us time and mental energy, and in the right
context, they could. But sometimes they fill in our mental gaps in lazy,
ill-considered ways, rather than forcing us to consider alternative
perspectives and arguments. When we’re stuck in one perspective, it’s hard to
engage in open-minded and productive disagreements.
about cognitive bias is that you can’t just turn it off and on when it suits
you. In order to participate in productive disagreements, you need to honestly
acknowledge your own biases. More than this, you need to admit that, unchecked,
your biases can prevent you from seriously engaging with other viewpoints. Make
sure your biases aren’t getting the better of you. Try to understand the
thought processes that lead others to arrive at their arguments, and check
yourself when you reflex-ly dismiss voices from a group that’s not your own.
but don’t speculate about others.
careers, we’re often told to “play to our
strengths.” Well, the same advice applies to the way we approach our
disagreements. When we’re arguing, one of our strengths is the way we inhabit
and understand our own perspective.
opponent’s perspective, on the other hand, is a weakness. When trying to
understand our opponent’s arguments, we have an unfortunate tendency to
oversimplify or even demonize their point of view.
point, let’s take a look at a hypothetical example: the story of two friends,
Bob and Sofia, who had a disagreement relating to the 2016 US election. It was
one of the most contentious and closely won elections in US history, yet many
millions of people who were eligible to vote decided not to do so. When Sofia
found out that Bob was one of these people, she was enraged. She understood
perfectly why she had voted: because she believed passionately in one candidate
and was strongly opposed to the other candidates. She thought she understood
just as well why Bob hadn’t voted: because he was selfish, apathetic, and
unwilling to do his democratic duty.
voice of possibility popped up in Sofia’s thoughts. She had always respected
Bob’s intelligence. Until then, she’d never thought of him as selfish. Was
there some motivation behind his actions that she had missed? She reached out
to Bob, and he explained. Unlike Sofia, Bob didn’t feel that any of the
candidates were fit for office. He couldn’t vote for one in good conscience
when he genuinely didn’t believe they would do a good job. So, he decided to
exercise his right to abstain from voting. In fact, he considered his non-vote
necessarily agree with Bob’s decision. But, by listening to the voice of
possibility and reaching out, she now knows his motivations and reasoning were
a lot more complex than she initially gave him credit for. Best of all, their
friendship is intact.
here? Speak for yourself! But more than that, invite others to do the same. You
don’t need to agree with them, but you’ll understand where they’re coming from.
leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments box provided below.
a fruitful day!
Bodunrin is a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Ado-Ekiti. He is a
professional writer, he writes articles for publication and he anchors – ‘What
You Should Know’ on SHEGZSABLEZS’ blog.
You Should Know’ is a column that offers to educate and enlighten the public on
general falsehood and myths.
Oluwole Olusanya is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of one of the fastest-growing lifestyle and entertainment website in the country. He is a banker, writer, blogger, public affairs analyst and a tax consultant. He anchors Trending Topics on SHEFFA where he shares his thoughts and opinions on trending issues.
He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the University of South Wales, Wales, United Kingdom. He has diplomas in Banking and Finance, Investigative Journalism, Creative Writing, and Linguistics from Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland and The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.