Bias, Bias, Go Away
By: Katie Sabunas
On this rainy Friday, we mourn the possibility of closing our week with some outdoor fun. A picnic with friends, a stroll at Pointe Vicente -- unless you’re Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain (a great rainy day movie, by the way), it seems outside activities for today are pretty much out the window. Some people despise the rain and let it ruin their mood, while others like it, or at least don’t mind it, and can continue to embrace positivity despite the depressing sky. No matter what our bias, there are positives and negatives to everything. As long as we open ourselves up to the positives in all things, who knows how we might grow.
This week’s leadership lesson was a continuation of last week’s on common humanity. Our focus was on bias, and how it hinders us from ultimately realizing our goal of common humanity. I thought I could explain and reflect upon what we learned with an example. The split between lovers and haters of rain is pretty divisive, as I haven’t really encountered anyone whose opinion falls in the neutral category. That is until we discover ways to overcome our biases. I personally am a lover of warm weather, and thus a rainy day presents not only an obstacle for my Friday plans but also something which doesn’t make me feel gleeful the way sunshine does. My bias that favors warm weather and goes against rainy, cold weather has been inhibiting me from experiencing the joy that lies on rainy days. After all, there are plenty of positives with rainy days, one being that rain forces us inside, which can lead to us remembering unfinished home projects (like, for me, cleaning my room and updating my whiteboard calendar), or proactively starting on weekend homework. On the other end of the spectrum, rainy days give us excuses to be lazy and to indulge in guilty pleasures! I can’t go outside to get acai bowls with my friend anymore, but I CAN make myself a cup of hot cocoa and watch Selling Sunset!
There are so many types of biases (fourteen in total according to Masterclass), all of which affect our decisions, that we must learn to recognize and deal with. The ones that stood out to me most are confirmation bias and prototype bias. Confirmation bias is bias that is maintained by finding evidence that supports it. If I say I hate rainy days and that they provide absolutely no source of joy, and find someone with my same opinion, they are validating my feelings, an alternate take on the idea of “safety in numbers”. There’s also prototype bias, that derives from people having a set idea for how things are based on either how they appear initially or continually. For example, if I had one poignant rainy day that was boring and unproductive or all of the rainy days I had were boring and unproductive, I might perceive all future rainy days as being the same way as well as have a negative attitude whenever it rained.
What the rainy day scenario shows is that once we learn to look beyond our biases and look for ways to enjoy things that aren’t tailored to them, we manifest positive change. Not only does overcoming one bias give us the opportunity to enjoy different things, but it also builds our expertise in breaking down personal biases until we are experiencing life to the fullest.