Overcome Bias

We have lived in a society that feeds on prejudice. All of us, at some point in life,  have come to conclusions about people we don’t know based on what we see and hear about them. While a few of us acknowledge that this is wrong, a great majority doesn’t. There are plenty of people talking about that great majority but I am going to talk about the few of us who realise the wrongness and still choose to do it anyway!

We convince ourselves that we are good people and we choose to be good people. While this seems like a noble thing, it is actually the root cause of problem. Because the first step to solving problems is to acknowledge their existence. This set of people want to be unbiased and unprejudiced when faced with a new person and/or situation but somehow that subconscious bias overrides their ‘wants’ and they come to a conclusion.

So, here’s a system you can employ to overcome bias:

1. Acknowledge the bias

You need to understand that if you intend on solving the problem, you have to first choose to see the problem. Recognising bias doesn’t make you a bad person. Sometimes we lean on biases we didn’t even know we had and that causes us to question our beliefs. So, make an active effort to understand your perspective instead of denying it.

“Stop trying to be good people, and be real people” – Vernā Myers

2. Speak about it even if it makes you uncomfortable

This is important, if you truly want to improve then you have to speak about it, be open to learning and being challenged by learned folks. Speak about it, seek help and choose to be better than before. It is no shame to reach out and ask for help. Try to get more people talking and if they are struggling with same issues, help them get over theirs as well. Do not run away from conversations, which are necessary simply because you’re uncomfortable.

3. Move forward with it

After you have understood what biases you have, then move forward carrying them and try to change. When you are trying to understand how your bias system works, you can tell you mind when it is doing something wrong. And  repeatedly being told what is wrong will make your brain believe; because that is how bias is formed in the first place — repetition! This will work far better than being in denial about the bias and being biased. Make a conscious effort to bring a change in the way your brain jumps to conclusions you don’t want to!


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People don’t know what they want

Recently, I came across a friend who was very much engrossed in his smartphone. In fact, he was interacting more with the phone than me. I jokingly challenged him to stay off his smartphone for a week — like completely off (maybe, use a basic phone just for calls!) He laughed at it; I told him that I was serious and we could involve some money in the bet too. His face changed and he said, “I could stay off food for a week not my phone.” And continued texting away. This got me thinking, how and when did a smartphone become more important to a human life than food? (Well technically, it isn’t because you’d die if you don’t eat!)

So, I wanted to know if a lot of people feel the same. I asked a lot of people — friends, family and acquaintances. And I came with an answer and it was an overwhelming ‘Yes!’ There are many different types of people that you meet, and chances are most of them feel like their lives revolve around their phones. I’m talking about smartphones; it might as well be anything else — their laptops or the ‘internet’ (or WiFi), or the Whats App, Facebook, anything else… We are so involved and caught up in this virtual society; it feels like we are trapped.

The reason for this is people don’t know what they want unless told. You give someone (who hasn’t used a laptop) a laptop and tell them, this is an absolute need and that they would find it extremely helpful, they WILL believe you. In fact, a couple of weeks down the line, they’d be inseparable from the laptop and probably thank you for introducing them to it. This is exactly what advertising companies do; they lead you to believing that you need something even if you actually don’t. Look at our parents who didn’t have smartphones/laptops/TVs when they were growing up, and they turned out just fine.

Yes yes, I understand these innovations have their advantages but is it really something worth giving up food (Being metaphorical here!) for?

It is not. Simple as that. The phone that you use is a tool to make your life easier, a device to reduce your workload and thereby reduce stress. It is nothing more than a piece of finely crafted microprocessor, micro-controllers and other circuits to make you deal with your tasks better. But right now these instruments are causing anxiety, depression and make an individual question the purpose of their existence. The number of likes for your photo matters more than the way you conduct yourself in public and the tweet with the maximum number of re-tweets is having a greater impact than the rightful opinions of the masses.

We are so easily influenced, so easily manipulated, so easily tricked into believing anything that is thrown at us. We have been naive, malleable and really really stupid. But we can change that — stop letting the keyboard warriors to tell you that you aren’t good enough, stop thinking the number of likes on that photo is a measure of your beauty, stop letting the companies fool you and trick you into believing that you ‘need’ their product. And make sure that you only buy the things that you absolutely need and not because your friends have bought it or because the society thinks you need it.

Stay informed. Be smart.