What is Bias? - Definition & Types

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David White
Through this lesson, you will learn how to define bias and explore a brief introduction to some of the types that exist in psychology and the social sciences. When you are through with the lesson, you can test your new knowledge with a short quiz.

What Is Bias?

Imagine that your neighbor has invited you to see his child's school play and, since you like the child, you agree to go. After sitting through the play, everyone who attended is handed a score sheet and asked to score each child's performance on a scale of 1 through 10. Although this is a hypothetical scenario, the odds are fairly good that you would give your neighbor's child a higher score, not because she was the best, but because you have a personal relationship with her, and you like her.

In this hypothetical situation, the preference shown for your neighbor's child is what is known as bias, which is a lack of objectivity or an inclination to favor one thing or person over another. For example, if Joe hires a man for a particular job because he believes that men are better workers than women, he could accurately be described as having a bias against women in the workplace. Depending on whom you ask, bias can have a very complicated definition, but in the simplest terms, it means that you have a one-sided point of view about something, which tends to influence decisions and opinions about other things.

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  • 0:00 What Is Bias?
  • 1:07 Who Experiences Bias?
  • 1:56 Types of Bias
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Who Experiences Bias?

Biases affect nearly every part of our social lives, from harmless acts, like favoring your children over others, to problematic or dangerous biases, like believing that white people are superior to other races. For instance, in the the Jim Crow South, racial bias led to African Americans being segregated and treated differently than white people. While it is possible that neither of those apply to you, it is important to remember that everyone, no matter how objective a person you may be, has a biased opinion about something.

Although bias tends to be associated with negative outcomes, such as gender or racial biases, it is not always quite so serious or detrimental. For example, being biased when it comes to one's own children would probably be considered a good thing because it improves bonding.

Types of Bias

Because bias influences so many different parts of our lives, researchers in psychology and sociology have identified several different types of bias in order to differentiate one from the other. While it would be impossible to cover all of them in this lesson, the following five types should help you to understand the different ways in which our lives are affected by bias.

1.) Attentional Bias: Attentional bias is the way that our recurring thoughts affect our perception. For example, if you have recently bought a new car that you love and are proud of, you might begin to notice other people driving the same car, whereas you wouldn't have noticed this before you got the car. This effect is related to the fact that your new car is on your mind after having bought it, and it is affecting your perception, particularly what you do and do not notice around you.

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