Would You Recognize Bias if It Were a Snake and Bit You?
You are human; therefore, you have biases.
What is Bias?
This week’s blog post on using conscious content also addressed the role bias plays. Bias is such a large part of conscious content, that it deserves its own exploration. Just in case you didn’t read the blog (I shudder to think!), bias is when a writer or speaker uses a curated selection of facts, words, and quality and tone to convey a feeling, belief or attitude they want you to have toward a subject or person. Bias in content reflects a preference or prejudice for or against a person, thing or idea.
Political ads are known for extreme bias and have developed a bias lexicon all their own.
Basic Bias: Political Ads
You know when your kids are in the backseat of the car and your son is screaming, “She’s touching me!” and she says sincerely, “No, I’m not! I promise!” so sincerely that you want to believe her. But you venture a peek in the rearview mirror and see her slyly poking her brother repeatedly while he continues to scream at her serene face.
Political ads are that bothersome sister, slyly poking at you, trying to sway you to their message. Even when you agree with the message, most people prefer not to be poked at on purpose every two seconds with any message.
We tend to think of political ads as trying to trick us, and some do. They skew facts and figures and snippets of articles that support their position. If you want to know the whole truth, you’re on your own to dig for it. But political ads, at their core, are a more basic kind of bias, precisely because we do recognize we’re being poked repeatedly to think a certain way.
Eat Your Bias Every Morning!
Most bias is not that easy to recognize. We are ingesting and digesting biased information all day long in a multitude for formats. Your morning cereal box is loaded with biased information. Nine essential vitamins! Eight grams of fiber! Great source of folic acid! Sounds healthy… except for the 24 grams of sugar per 1 measly cup serving, hidden in tiny type in the middle of the nutrition information.
Becoming aware of just how much bias surrounds us is important. Look at everything with a critical eye and think. You will learn to be a bias-spotting expert, and that alone will free you from under the oppressive thumb of bias. Being aware of the existence of bias isn’t the goal though. You have to learn the skill of identifying what is and what isn’t bias.
How to Identify Bias
Step 1: Always ask yourself the right questions:
- What facts has the speaker or author omitted? This requires research and knowing the proper, legitimate sources of information once you find them. Yes, this is a time commitment, but with that powerful computer glued to your hand, you can use the time during the next commercial to research the previous one.
- What additional information is necessary to create a full picture?
- What words being said create positive or negative impressions in me?
- What impression would I have if different words had been used?
Step 2: Ask questions… again. Why? Bias may be masquerading as slanting.
Slanting is when content conveys an intended attitude or point of view toward its subject without ever explicitly stating it. Slanting is the venomous variety of the bias snake. Slanted material is slippery because it can read and sound more like fact or inclusionary material when it definitely is not.
Create an Environment of Awareness
Though much more subtle than bias, identifying slanting is the same as identifying bias. Ask those same questions. Be aware. Teach your team how to be aware. Talk about it at every opportunity. Encourage questions and critical thinking.
Indicators of Bias
Once you learn to question everything, you will start to notice similarities among biased material. There are key indicators that help you identify bias:
- Extreme language, such as statements with all or nothing connotations
- Arguments that appeal more to your emotions than logic
- The wording oversimplifies or over generalizes the topic, idea, product, service or person
- The content presents a very limited view of the topic, idea, product, service or person
We like to have our opinions validated. We like to listen to people who think the same way we do and agree with us. We like a friend set or co-workers who think like us. Many of us choose our news stations based on the way the material is presented. Choosing a biased environment isn’t always a conscious decision.
Think about your chosen environment though. If you insulate yourself from everything you disagree with, you don’t have all the facts, truth, or an ability to identify with those who don’t think the way you do.
As a company, this can be dangerous territory because you can lose sight of your audience. If you can’t identify with or include anyone that is different from you, you cannot effectively market to your audience. Your audience will shrink. Your sales will shrink. You become less open to new ideas, critical thinking, new ways of doing business.
Bias in Marketing
Much of marketing is biased because that is its nature. You are trying to persuade current and potential customers to buy your product or use your service. Not all of your marketing needs to be biased or slanted though, and not using conscious content when you are writing your content can lead to negative bias. You must be able to identify if you are producing exclusionary content, insensitive content, offensive content (even if unintended).
If you need help identifying and correcting bias and slant in your content or assistance writing great content for your business, Points Group has over two decades of experience in creating effective content. Our publishing division’s conscious content division can help with a comprehensive review. We can also bundle content services with our marketing and digital production services. Contact us today to speak with a marketing or content specialist.
Cuesta College provides a wonderful guide on how to critically evaluate information, identify propaganda techniques, how to recognize and value various viewpoints, spot faulty logic, distinguish between fact and opinion, and much more.