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Why Understanding Personal Biases Is Important

Early this year, I recall a colleague arguing that an increasing number of people are reluctant to get vaccinated against coronavirus because the seriousness of the illness had been exaggerated. Thus, the perceived consequence of the vaccination was likely much higher than the risk of infection. It was difficult to believe that most individuals, including healthcare professionals, had been exposed to conspiracy theories (mainly on social media), claiming that a certain government-controlled laboratory deliberately created the virus for political gain.

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In addition, it was not easy to agree with the idea that some health organizations had exaggerated the disease’s lethality for pharmaceutical economic advantage. I remember refuting these ideas and asserting that many people prefer physiologic immunity over vaccine-related immunity because of safety and efficacy concerns. Thus, both of us could not agree on why people refused to be vaccinated against the infection due to personal biases.

This type of bias is known as confirmation bias, which makes individuals less likely to engage with information that contradicts their views. It impacts how a person can interpret and recall information. In this case, people tend to look for evidence that confirms they are right and reject those that show them to be wrong (Bell, n.d.a). This type of bias occurs because people desire certain concepts to be true, and the same ideas are stored in their subconscious minds, which may take a considerable amount of time to over-write. For instance, it is difficult to fathom how healthcare workers, who directly witness how coronavirus can kill many patients, could decline to get vaccinated.

This is despite various studies proving that the treatment can offer exceptional protection against the spread of this illness and even death. In some way, nobody wants to be wrong after believing in something for so long; instead, they seek information that reinforces their beliefs.

Being aware of personal biases is crucial to avoid making assumptions. It enables people to be open-minded and improves their ability to understand and interpret new evidence. In this case, understanding personal bias can make individuals more likely to be swayed by reasoned arguments or listen to a different point of view rather than relying on their assumptions. This allows them to exhaustively examine every fact and conduct an inquiry to gather evidence to enhance apprehension before making conclusions. Being open to new ideas implies that individuals do not necessarily know everything.

This enhances critical thinking because new information adds to existing knowledge, resulting in a more accurate understanding of a given subject (Bell, n.d.a). The more people examine other people’s points of view, it boosts their capacity to identify an argument’s flaws. When people listen to what others have to say, it reduces the biases that shape their opinions. As a result, they may seek alternate viewpoints and facilitate the use of evidence to articulate ideas.

Being aware of biases is necessary when researching because it allows individuals to independently and critically review literature or articles. This helps avoid interpretations that are suboptimal or potentially misleading. Some biases can easily be detected by reviewing information or components of scholarly sources (Bell, n.d.b). The authors’ background data can also help readers learn more about them, such as their purpose and use of evidence.

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For instance, some authors may favor mandatory vaccination against coronavirus due to their vested interest in the pharmaceutical business. In this case, increased awareness of various biases allows researchers to proceed cautiously in evaluating arguments presented in a given article and look for additional information to counter any possible bias. Therefore, a thorough understanding of creators’ biases is vital for audiences to accurately evaluate their works and evidence. Biased viewpoints can cause distorted results and wrong conclusions. Similarly, readers need to be aware of how their biases (background, beliefs, and goals) may affect interpreting the evidence in those scholarly materials. A person who is aware of their personal biases will think critically or communicate objectively on a topic.

References

Bell, P.M. (n.d.a). Bias and Assumption. Retrieved from Southern New Hampshire University of, Web Interface for Perspectives In Liberal Art (WISE).

Bell, P.M. (n.d.b). How to Read and Interpret Scholarly Resources. Retrieved from Southern New Hampshire University of, Web Interface for Perspectives In Liberal Art (WISE).

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