Topic 1 What is a bias: meaning, function & typologies

What is bias?

  • It means that information comes from a particular viewpoint

  • It’s a subjective way of thinking that tells only one side of a story, sometimes leading to inaccurate information or a false impression

  • It might be trying to persuade you to a particular way of thinking

A bias might be

  • Intentional or unintentional

  • Hard to identify in ourselves because it is unconscious, and we do not recognise it when we see it

Is it always bad?

Not always, most of our judgments depend on examining only some of the elements – that is, they ignore part of the information. This ignorance can actually be helpful especially when one needs to make immediate judgments in the face of an abundance of data and it is not at all obvious what the ideal approach to assessing the information might be.

When are biases wrong?

When they are based on wrong stereotypes, attitudes and prejudices such as gender, racial, ethnic stereotypes, attitudes and prejudices that undermine the representative features of a group.


Implicit Attitudes

Denotes the tendency to like or dislike someone or something.


Mental association between a social category and a trait. Stereotypes denote cognitive structures that help individuals to process information (perceiving, decoding, storing, retrieving, decision making). They are defined as morally “neutral”, just a cognitive resource to gather and process information.


Denotes a kind of motivated bias, characterised by stereotypes and attributions (causal explanations of actions and events connected to the group that represent a group in a negative light).  Negative effects can appear to be merited by these stereotypes and attributions; and discriminatory behaviour reflects this in two dimensions: competence and warmth (Fiske).

Video Resource

What does my headscarf mean to you?

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

The most common biases are:

  • Racial: strong sense of discrimination against a human group
  • Androcentric: a male centered observation of culture which focuses solely on male activities and leads to inaccurate perceptions of women
  • Ethnocentric: conception of one’s own social group as the center and the point of reference on the basis of which all other groups are evaluated and classified

Source: Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash