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Is Bias Bad?

I am biased, probably getting more biased as time goes by, and mostly fine with it.

 

Whenever we start learning about a new subject, we have very little reference knowledge. When we have no reference, it’s more difficult to critically evaluate new pieces of information. I think this is very visible in the fact that new coaches are more susceptible to latest trends early on in their career. This is usually also accompanied by frequent switching between methods/beliefs.

 

Through trial and error, together with hopefully being exposed to many different views, we develop a more generalized set of principles, a lens through which we view new information in the future. This is very useful as there is more information thrown at us every day than we can process.

 

The downside is of course that we might be inclined to ignore pieces of information that contradict our beliefs. Still, we need to have some bias to function, you cannot give the same amount of energy to every new piece of information that you encounter. Even data is not bias free, as what and how you decide to measure is already a choice you made based on certain assumptions. Additionally, data needs a conceptual model to become useful, without a model you might as well use a random number generator. I would even go so far to say I reject the notion of bias-free thinking. You might even state that thinking there is such a thing as being 'bias-free' might lead to more stubborn ideas, as we might be inclined to think our view of the world is the objective way things are. Let's strive for awareness instead of objectivity, as objectivity prevents us from questioning how we arrived at certain assumptions in the first place.

 

If we accept the fact that it's fine to have a certain amount of bias, we can try to be aware of how our bias influences certain decisions, potentially becoming aware of downsides. We can try to become aware of what our model of reality is based on, which allows us to think about which pieces of information might lead to falsification of our model. It also allows us to think about situations where our model might not apply. I would argue this is more important than trying to be 'bias-free'.

 

To conclude, we are all biased, often in ways we are probably not aware of yet. You can view this blog post as a case for bias-acknowledgement above bias-avoidance (or more accurately, bias-denial). We should realize that we need bias to function, especially in a fast-changing environment. However, to truly develop as a practitioner and person in general, every so often we should take time to zoom out and question why we act the way we act and think the way we think.

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