Saturday, January 29, 2022

First, We Must Actively Cope With Our Biases And Predjudices



We all have biases and prejudices--whether we are aware of them or not. This includes all adults, and even the judges of the Supreme Court! Political parties always fight over nominees as they attempt to appoint a  judge who will favor their own party and/or at least not be against their party.   


The two words bias and prejudice are so similar in meaning, that we will use "bias" to refer to either.  


Definition Of Bias


1.  People can be biased positively OR negatively for someone or something. For example, "My team plays fair, but you guys try to cheat."


2.  When we know our biases and how they affect our thinking, feeling and doing--only then can we feel them arising in us, pause them, and set them aside as necessary. 


3.  This skill helps us preserve good practical judgment and maintain effective relationships. Further on, I'll share some of my biases and where they might have come from.



A psychologist colleague of mine is a full professor at a university and she is highly experienced in testifying in criminal courts around the country. I always attend her presentations to learn important stuff. She puts concepts into words so clearly I can grasp the important nuances.  (When you hear someone say, "He/she gave a highly nuanced opinion" it means they looked at details with a delicate degree or shade of difference.)


She taught on the topic of: how can an expert witness testify in court successfully without being made to look foolish by an opposing attorney.  She made the following points:

  • We all have many biases and often ones we don’t even know about! 
  • We don’t want our statements dismissed or attacked as biased or prejudiced--overly positive or negative.

Generally we should make a serious attempt to know about our biases, prejudices, etc. We can often feel our bias actuate before we speak it; and, then we have the chance to keep out mouth shut and make our life easier by avoiding unnecessary resentments and conflict. Classic books such as How to Win Friends and Influence People  and Choosing Civility both explain in detail and in depth (nuanced) the problem of confronting someone directly in disagreement. That usually escalates bad feelings and makes people more rigid in their biases and prejudices. 


Specifically concerning political polarization, recent research finds that our inner biases routinely come into play instantaneously; and, when people's biases are contradicted they tend to become defensive and hostile. This bias effect occurs more often in persons who are more verbal and factually informed; such persons are likely more self-confident and believe (mistakenly) that their listener will welcome being corrected


The best practices for coping with biases are counter-intuitive. Training, thoughtful reflection, use of carefully nuanced opinions, and practice are needed. 



Political scientists have refined their research and improved predictions of voter turnout and the election’s likely winner. In the last ten years of presidential elections, about 55% to 60% of the voters vote.  Here are voter characteristics  

usually found to have a significant impact on voting: 


1.  Party loyalty is a very powerful effect. I’ve known for a long time party “loyalty” is a strong factor, but I never knew it is this dominating a factor. The political party of the voter’s family of origin tends to make democrat’s identify themselves as liberals and republicans identify themselves as conservatives. 


2.  The more education a person has, the more likely they are to vote in presidential elections. This is a strong factor.  


3.   Gender (more women vote than men), religion, socioeconomic class, and rural vs. urban are some dominant factors which affect how voters vote on issues (as distinct from party) important to them. 





I will share some of my background for you to assess my possible bias.


My family rarely talked politics. But I recall my mom making a few snide comments on national democratic candidates. Also, I recall hearing a slogan favoring republican candidate Dwight Eisenhower. It was one of the most famous political slogans:  "I Like Ike."  


Generally I have voted Republican. But I voted for Bill Clinton because he wanted to balance the budget (conservative issue) and also because I respected his plan to allow gays into the military with the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” recommendation.  I rarely miss voting for president.  Clearly, I evolved within my family to become a republican. But I don’t remember ever having made a considered choice to identify with either party.  I grew up on an 80 acre farm five miles outside a small town in central Michigan.


 My mom was an English teacher and my dad taught biology. We lived in a very old, rambling farm house which got central heat only when I was in the 10th grade. I had three older sisters. I was close to both parents. I helped my dad performing chores in the barn and fields. I was close to my mom, who took us to many extra-curricular activities such as 4H, and little league baseball. I sang in the Episcopal Church choir along with mom. In high school I participated in extra-curricular activities of theater, debate, and choir. 


After age 15 I always had part time jobs.  After high school I attended the University of Michigan, followed by earning advanced degrees at the University of Georgia.  As an undergraduate, I was in ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) and became an Army lieutenant after college graduation. After earning my doctoral degree (PhD) I was promoted to captain and served four years active duty at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri.  I am married and have four grown children and eight grandchildren. I grew up in the fifties and sixties. My family and educational and social environment was 99% without trauma. In school everyone was well-behaved, respectful, and no one ever yelled. I never witnessed a single fight.



Instinctively, I expect adults to be well behaved because they should know and take responsibility for their adequate functioning in the business of life—whether it is school, work or play. People should do their best to survive without damaging the lives of others.


Instinctively, I expect adults to be honest with me and not take advantage of me, or of anybody else whom I care about protectively (e.g., wife, kids, friends, and yes our country). 


Instinctively I’m biased about politicians. I have a hard time giving them the benefit of the doubt. I’m quick to judge them and react negatively to most campaign talk. Whenever I sense they are being deceitful, disingenuous, or conniving, I feel dismissive and/or somewhat hostile. 


These are a few of my biases. I still have to be alert to catch and inhibit deep-seated biases so I don’t alienate someone by expressing bias against them or their beliefs. On  two subject matters, religion and politics, I am very hesitant to speak frankly. Instead, what I do say is nuanced to avoid approaching divisive topics. Getting topical and /or emotional distance from others when talking about religion or politics is often the best way to insure a successful interaction. 



Live and let live. Always try to be patient and kind.


  1350 Words   INTRODUCTION Here’s what happened in America   on January 6 th , 2021: “After refusing to concede the 2020 U.S. preside...