Positive Unconscious Bias?

I got so involved with writing my previous post that I forgot to make one of my points. While thinking of types of people I might be biased against, I became very aware of some ways in which my subconscious biases me toward some people.

While out on a walk with Anita and Pickle, I even said, “I always think I’ll like anyone who has this sign in front of their house.”

The sign has all my buzz words on it. Plus I like the flag addition: it’s for all of us in the USA.

Now, there’s a positive bias! I just assume that, by buying one of these signs, they must be great folks. These must be fine people, too:

I happen to know the sign’s owner IS a nice person, but from actually knowing her, not from her sign.

This is just as inaccurate a way to judge others as lumping all people with Trump pickup-truck flags in the same boat. You really don’t know what a person is like until you actually get to know them (yes, I know their signs DO give a hint, but let’s not pre-judge!).

I tend to have a favorable bias towards dog lovers, too (which helps mitigate some other biases). And if you own a spotted mini-donkey…oooh, you must be GREAT.

Now you know why I fell for my spouse. It was the dogs.

I have some other positive biases, mostly based on education, career choices, and hobbies (I always feel betrayed when I find out a fellow knitter is actually creepy, but having read comments directed at some of my gay knitting heroes, I know they’re out there).

I blame my bias on Mike. Most things are his fault, after all. Here we are in 2013. Apparently I’d just given him a rabbit hutch.

Speaking of which, I’m pretty sure I’m positively biased toward gay men (more neutral toward others). I wonder if it’s because they’ve been kinder to me most of my life, in general, than any other group. Or it’s just empathy based on my family and past friends’ experiences. Of course I’ve known some unpleasant gay men, but my bias makes me assume I’ll like them. Like with any other group, of course, it’s better to get to know individuals than make sweeping generalizations.

Here we are again in February 2020, just before being attacked by the quarantine and becoming more…substantial. I have no idea where we are.

To be honest, after thinking about my positive biases, I can see that they can be helpful shortcuts to identifying potential friends, but they can also make you assume things about people that might not be true. I’m going to make sure I identify the positive ones as well as the negative unconscious biases.

Enjoy this cloud formation in far southeast Austin as you ponder bias.

What are yours?

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

2 thoughts on “Positive Unconscious Bias?”

  1. Two very interesting posts. You’re right, we all have biases, but recognising them is a prerequisite of either mitigating them, or managing them in a constructive and non-confrontational way. My family background gave me firm political views (left of centre), which helped shape my biases. Instinctively, therefore, I think I will dislike people with conservative views. And yet the best friend I ever had was a conservative; our political views were miles apart, but we succeeded in putting these aside because the stuff that we shared (sense of humour, love of cricket and our local soccer team, basic human decency) far outweighed the other stuff. He died way too young, and I wrote this post as a tribute to him http://64reflections.home.blog/2019/08/01/the-best-man-i-ever-knew/

    In my career I worked in local government, and in the last decade had a lot of contact with politicians. As a “public servant” I had to put aside my political views and deal with all politicians impartially. I discovered that I liked some politicians on the right as well as some on the left; equally I disliked some on both political wings. The politics proved to be less important than stuff I value more, like kindness and integrity. It was a good lesson, though it came too late in life.

    I remain strongly biased against hunters, anyone who takes animal life for the pleasure of the kill. I recognise that some (most?) of these people are probably, in every other respect, thoroughly decent human beings acting within the law. I respect their right to live their own lives and hope that they would take the same view of mine. However I actively choose to avoid their company: to do anything else would be feel like a fundamental denial of who I am.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing the wonderful story of your friend! And I appreciate how you worked with the political folks—that’s exactly how it should go!

      Liked by 1 person

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