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Damon Pourtahmaseb-Sasi

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How do you recognize bias?

As I was looking over all the comments on this Talk, I was struck again and again by commentators who took it as a "biased" video, or an "attack" on Israel.

I saw nothing of the sort: it neither condemned Israel's policies, nor did it justify Palestinian violence in response to those policies. The entire video is based on giving attention to nonviolent movements rather than only violent ones, to empower them OPPOSED to those political groups that perpetrate violence (aka, terrorists).

So I wondered, where does all this vitriol come from? If the names of the countries and people were anything but "Israel" and "Palestinians," would they react the same way in opposition to peaceful protests?

Everyone is biased against some things, and even with reasonable justification at times. What I want to know is, how do you recognize bias, in others and yourselves?

I know I'm being biased when I assume someone's intentions to be negative simply because they do something I disagree with. For example, when I hear Conservative say something that isn't true, I am more inclined to think they are willfully manipulating or ignoring the facts to get support. This assumption of purposeful dishonesty is something I am less inclined to have of Liberals, whose factually wrong statements I tend to believe is born of honest ignorance.

I know others are being biased similarly when I see them applying negative (or positive) intentions toward people who they have no first hand knowledge of. For example, people who imply that soldiers or police that harm children do so intentionally: no doubt monsters exist, but to assume it of all of them is a bias. Similarly, those who believe or imply that people of a certain ethnicity love their children less, or implying that they want violence and strife. Again true in some cases: the blanket assumption on ethnicity is bias however.

How do you recognize bias? Give an example of AT LEAST one bias you recognize in yourself, and one you see in others.

Topics: Bias Prejudice

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    Sep 2 2011: I don't disagree with you. I was thinking of the old joke "How can you tell when they're lying? Their mouth moves." and found it rhetorically useful to assert that having an opinion is having a bias. I admit to an exaggeration, and acknowledge that having distinct words is useful. If you can choose an opinion that differs from your bias, congratulations; maybe your bias is changing, or maybe you are just experiencing the effect of a brain filled with many conflicting opinions; your bias for being as fair as possible won over your bias against the badly behaved kid.

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