What is bias?

How many times do we make decisions based on a certain preference we have implicitly cultivated without actually realizing it. For example imagine you go to Starbucks for a coffee, we see 3-4 different persons of different racial backgrounds serving coffee. We choose one of them and go ahead with the order. How did we make this choice in a split second. I am of the view that we do actually apply a lot of short circuit processing to make the decision which we are probably unaware of. Sometimes very conscious one such that this girl is cute to others extremely complex such as this person is brown or black or white . Hence it is a good option to go here because………. without being aware of it. And in a certain way it is unavoidable. The brain resorts to these short cuts for making decisions to help focus on the primary ones.

However what we have to realize is that these decisions are not really data driven. The way I think of them they are guided more by the vivid past experiences whether active or passive. Let me elaborate . So by an active experience I mean when you were the first person at the receiving end. So maybe someone was not nice to you and hence you would be hesitant to go to another person of the same color. By a passive experience I mean when you are not the person who experienced it but rather you heard about it from someone to develop your own judgement about it. The result of our decision really depends on two main factors. One is how recent was the experience and to what extent it moved you. These are the experiences that stick. In a way it is very analogous to the working on many algorithms in Computer Science where you have a Least Recently Used algorithm where the operating system or any application for that matter uses data from the cache memory. Once the data gets older it not used it is subsequently discarded.

It is funny I compare the brain with the computer and not the other way round because actually the computer is a creation of the human brain so at many levels the computer will be very similar to something it originated from.  Well, that’s just my bias! 😀

Now what we need to realize and we are that when it comes to judging people or making important decisions, making choices that are driven by data will always yield good results in the long run. So how can we apply these in the classroom. First recognize the bias when dealing with students or even peers. Then pay careful attention to how your bias is coming in the way of evaluation. Are you making choices based on data or are you using your cache memory? It takes a lot of practice and maybe slows you down too to a certain extent but a slower decision with careful deliberation will have greater potential to result in a positive outcome than a hasty one! Cheers