We are all biased about something. But that doesn’t mean we should accept bias and just go about our business. The way people look can taint our ability to assess the merits of their argument. That’s bad enough. But our fear, dislike or disapproval can lead us to make decisions that work against our best interest.
In a recent study by Mahzarin Banaji, a psychology professor at Harvard University, volunteers competing in a quiz were asked to select either an overweight or thin teammate. The subjects were told the overweight person had a higher IQ. But the majority chose the thin person.
You might think you’re immune to such bias. And maybe you are. Just to be safe, however, digest information with an open mind and wide-ranging intellectual curiosity.
Listen to how colleagues support their views, regardless of their accent, appearance or other irrelevancies. Do they exaggerate the positive and minimize the negative (or vice versa)? Do they make assertions without proof? Are they unable to answer your follow-up questions forthrightly?
If you catch yourself judging someone negatively based on superficial factors, think of an individual whom you admire and respect with those same factors. Do this enough times and you can train yourself to look beyond biases.
Banaji’s research demonstrates that most people “show an unconscious preference toward their social group,” The Boston Globe reports. That’s all the more reason to apply sound, consistent logic when people outside your social group argue their case.