Biased Views

We've all got our natural biases. It's a side-effect of learning what we like and dislike, a way to subconsciously maintain clues to those preferences in order that we aren't constantly wondering what next we really want to do. Socially, bias most likely helped keep our ancestors safe from the unknown. It's an adjunct of implicitly learning what will harm you so that you know it without having to get burned or stung or poisoned over and over until some such event finally kills you.

Of course, as our species has grown, we've managed to tame an extraordinary amount of the environment in which we exist day to day. Most of the dangers we face now are those which we've created ourselves, as a civilization. We've also created Laws and Rules which protect us all so that our biases are really more relevant, not as survival instincts, but more as I described initially; preferences.

I read about this project and Mahzarin Banaji in the
June '06 issue of Scientific American, and have been meaning to give it a try ever since. It's definitely a part of ourselves we need to understand better if we're to avoid blowing up our planet.
[Link] Even in people with genuinely egalitarian views, Banaji and her colleagues find that bias is ordinary and ingrained and remains active outside our awareness. When the team realized the power of unconscious attitudes in everyday decision making, she says, "we knew the right thing was to take this to the public." On an IAT Web site (, users can try 14 measures--to find out whether they automatically favor young over old, for instance, or prefer thin to overweight. Ten new sections include country-specific IATs, such as Muslim-Hindu and Pakistan-India associations.
On a less dramatic or consequential stage, this particular test reminded me of Blue Girl's recent request for non-biased assistance in understanding the pros and cons of her use of Netscape as a browser. (
BTW, hope you feel better soon, BG!)

I didn't want to think I may have steered her wrong (though she received plenty of excellent - and interesting - opinions...) and I think these results have got my back in that regard.

I'm hoping I produce similar results on the rest of them. I'll definitely post them, regardless of whether or not they support my biased view of myself as an openminded and tolerant kinda guy. Don't get me wrong. I don't think that I'm not biased! I just always try hard to overcome those because I've grown up being hurt by such crap, and have hurt others as well. What I really need to work on most, seems to be overcoming a bizarre bias against my own best interests. THAT's the really tough ticket for me.

Of course, vis-a-vie Microsoft, things like the Gates' Foundation and Bill G's recent comments at the International AIDS Conference in Toronto are the kind of stuff that help alleviate some of my bias against Microsoft, despite its predatory and destructive style of operating in the marketplace. So maybe I won't show as well in most of the other tests as I did here.

We'll see.

Here's a
link for more info on Project Implicit, and the SciAm article is highly rec'd as well. Click the pic to take the test yourself. You may be surprised by the results. Even if your bias tells you otherwise.


  1. Bias affects all of us in some ways. I think we do have hidden biases, and some that are acknowledged. Always seomthing new to work on, eh?

  2. Right you are, Glenda!

    As long as we live, there's always more to learn.


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