Bias is a tendency to favor one person, group, thing or point of view over another, often in an unfair way. Bias can be a personal opinion or a more public opinion, such as a news story, that only presents facts that support one point of view.
Bias in Treatment
Here are examples of bias shown in the negative way people are treated, either in reality or perceived:
- Belief system
- Gender/gender identity
- Marital status
- National origin
- Political beliefs
- Sexual orientation
- Social standing
Bias in Behaviors
- Avoidance of certain people
- Stereotyping - good or bad
- Telling jokes based on stereotypes
- Calling people names
- Posting negative comments in social media
- Insults based on stereotypes
- Vandalizing others' religious decorations
- Imitating someone with a disability
- Calling women names such as chicks or broads
- Joining exclusive clubs where certain people are not allowed
- Telling someone that women wear dresses and men wear pants
- Not serving someone is a restaurant or retail store because of their race
- Not hiring someone because of their age or gender
- Not accepting a bid on a house because of race or religion
- Drawing pictures or cartoons that belittle someone because of their beliefs, gender expression or political affiliation
Bias in Politics & Media
Bias is sometimes used in politics and can even be the reason for government censorship.
Here are examples of bias in mass media:
- Abraham Lincoln accused newspapers in the border states of being biased towards the South. He ordered many of them to be closed.
- Adolf Hitler, in the years before World War II, accused some newspapers of a Marxist bias.
- Some Americans who supported the Nazis claimed the international media was controlled by Jews. There were also claims that reports of Jews being mistreated were biased and had no foundation.
- In 1798, the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed, making it illegal for newspapers to publish anything malicious, false or scandalous against the government. That included opposing any law or presidential act publicly.
- The South African government, in the 1980s, accused newspapers of liberal bias and ordered censorship of them and even shut down one for a time.
- During the Vietnam War, Spiro Agnew called anti-war protestors, "the nattering nabobs of negativism” and he accused newspapers of being biased against America.
- During the civil rights movement, television and film media were accused of a bias that supported the mixing of the races. Some Southern stations refused to air shows with mixed casts, such as Star Trek and I Spy.
Here are examples of bias in mainstream media:
- Advertising bias - Selecting media stories based on what will please advertisers
- Concision bias - Reporting views that can be summed up in few words rather than other unconventional views which would take a lengthy explanation
- Corporate bias - Picking articles or stories that are pleasing to the owners of the media organization or network
- Mainstream bias - Reporting the same things everyone else is reporting, so that no one gets upset or offended
- Sensationalism - Choosing to report more extraordinary events than everyday ones. This can make these types of events seem more common than they really are.
To learn more about a different type of bias, see some examples of hindsight bias, a term used in psychology to explain how people tend to overestimate their ability to predict an outcome.