HOW OUR COGNITIVE BIASES COLOR OUR THOUGHT PROCESS AND AFFECT OUR DECISION MAKING PROCESS

HOW OUR COGNITIVE BIASES COLOR OUR THOUGHT PROCESS AND AFFECT OUR DECISION MAKING PROCESS.
By Adv. George Merlo Pallath
It is common to hear on the corridors of the High Court and at the Bar association hall to hear lawyers talk about the biases of the judges. All lawyers are aware of these biases in the judges. That is why it is said that “good lawyers study the law, while the top lawyers study the judge.”
It is not just the judges who have biases. Indeed every human beings are biased one way or another. Recently while sitting on the front veranda of the Ernakulam Bar association, another lawyer was expressing his deep displeasure about lady lawyers coming and sitting along with the men. According to him, ladies must not sit along with the males. Where does he get these biases and prejudices?
Anybody who has seen the Malayalam movie “ Mary Kutty”, where the actor Jayasuriya enacts the role of a transsexual to perfection will understand how the biases and prejudices of the society towards trans sexuals and transgenders play out. Or in the movie “Chalakudykaaran Changadi” which is based on the life of Kalabhavan Mani, the prejudices and biases that he had to face from the society merely because of his skin colour and caste is highlighted. The prejudice and biases of the society against caste, color of the skin, gender biases etc are so prevalent amongst us and it creates so much hurt, anger, frustration and consternation leading to lifelong mental scar. These biases are the root cause of many disputes and conflicts in society.
We were all born free of all biases. Just like a freshly purchased laptop, our brain was fresh as a “lily” at birth. From then on, like we load the necessary soft wares that the user wants, into the laptop, Likewise, from the moment of our birth, our life gets controlled. Others take decisions for us. Our name, religion, race, caste etc are decided and we get labelled. We are bound to carry these labels inside our heads till our death. Our family, society, friends, school mates all influence our way of thinking and shape our mind to have certain beliefs, prejudices, biases. We get conditioned.
Our minds have been shaped by the culture around us. Cultural Osmosis. Most of the disputes occur in society, between persons, due to these biases.
So what is the meaning of Cognitive bias?
Cognition is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses”. It encompasses processes such as attention, the formation of knowledge, memory and working memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning and “computation”, problem solving and decision making, comprehension and production of language. Cognitive processes use existing knowledge and generate new knowledge.

Cognitive bias is a “limitation” in objective thinking that is caused by the tendency for the human brain to perceive information through a filter of personal experience and preferences.

A cognitive bias is a genuine deficiency or limitation in our thinking — a flaw in judgment that arises from errors of memory, social attribution, and miscalculations (such as statistical errors or a false sense of probability).
As humans, we didn’t evolve to make logical decisions—we evolved to survive.
And cognitive biases may have helped serve that purpose. But the modern world presents many scenarios that demand more rational calculations, and we’re often left frustrated, wondering why our best thinking doesn’t get us the results we want.
Conditioning creates belief systems which lead to biases in our minds. There biases get hardwired into our neural system and the main cause of conflict and disputes are these biases. That is why it is so important to be aware of these biases and understand biases of those we come in contact with in this society. The whole society is full of biases.

There are more than 200 cognitive biases that affect our decision-making.
The sheer amount of biases should teach us humility. And we should recognize the essential role they play in our lives, as well. As much as we would like to be fair and impartial about how we deal with the situations that arise on a daily basis, we process them or our conditioned brain process them through a complex series of internal biases before deciding how to react. Even the most self-conscious of us cannot escape the full spectrum of internal prejudices. The most sophisticated thinkers fall prey to their own cognitive biases, so at least we’re in good company.
The bad news is that we can’t get rid of cognitive biases. The good news? The better we understand them, the more often we can subvert them—or even leverage them for our own benefit.
Let me list out just a few of them, so that we will understand how to recognize these biases and how to deal with it.
The first step toward overcoming cognitive biases is to acknowledge that we have them. The second step is to take advantage of tools that can help balance out our own irrational tendencies. Nothing cools a hot head like an ice-cold algorithm. There are biases that we are aware of those that we are not even aware that we have them.

CONSCIOUS BIAS:-
Conscious prejudice is much easier to recognize and much easier to overcome during the relatively short time span of a mediation. While a defense counsel may be keenly aware of his dislike or disdain for members of the LGBTQ community, being consciously aware of this makes it easier to move past his personal feelings to a more objective analysis of the value of a claim being presented. By consciously putting aside his prejudice temporarily, a “neutral zone” can be created to move a case forward.

UNCONSCIOUS BIAS :- operates at a very subtle level, below our awareness. It results in almost unnoticeable behaviors (micro behaviors) such as paying less attention to what the other person says, addressing them less warmly or talking less to them.” Behaviors resulting from unconscious bias are insidious. Unless they are recognized by the participants in the mediation, they will almost imperceptibly impact, if not control, the outcome of the mediation. Thus, while it is difficult to recognize bias in our clients, the mediator, opposing counsel or (most importantly) ourselves, overcoming them is a challenge that should be addressed by the effective practitioner.

Psychologists tell us that our unconscious biases are simply our natural people preferences. Biologically we are hard-wired to prefer people who look like us, sound like us and share our interests. Social psychologists call this phenomenon “social categorization” whereby we routinely and rapidly sort people into groups. This preference bypasses our normal, rational and logical thinking. We use these processes very effectively (we call it intuition) but the categories we use to sort people are not logical, modern or perhaps even legal. Put simply, our neurology takes us to the very brink of bias and poor decision making

Much of human judgment & behavior is not based on conscious thought.
Our mind is an automatic association making machine.
When we see a bus, immediately many other thoughts come to mind about the bus.
When we see a person, immediately many associated thoughts come to mind.
When we see shadows in the dark, we start thinking of ghosts and robbers.
When we see a rope, we immediately think of a snake.

Beliefs govern nearly every aspect of our lives. Beliefs tell us how to pray, how to vote, whom to trust, whom to avoid. They shape our personal behaviors, and spiritual ethics throughout life. But once our beliefs are established, we rarely challenge their validity, even when faced with contradictory evidence. Thus, when we encounter others who appear to hold differing beliefs, we tend to dismiss or disparage them. These beliefs are our most important human commodity. With them we can build civilizations, make revolutions, create music and art, and determine our relationship to the cosmos. Beliefs make us fall in love, and they drive us into hate; that is why it is so critical to understand how they work. We all have beliefs, we all need them, and they will determine humanity’s fate.
Biologically and neuro psychologically, a belief can be defined as any perception, cognition, or emotion that the brain assumes consciously or unconsciously to be true.
We will use the term “perception’’ to refer to the information we receive about ourselves and the world through our senses.
“Cognition’ however, represents a different level of processing within the brain and includes all the abstract conceptual processes that our brain uses to organize and make sense of our perceptions.
In the process of organizing, labeling, and quantifying the world, the brain has a tendency to reduce everything to as few components as possible. Our brain also functions like a computer + or -. 0 or 1. Dualistic. Heaven vs hell, man vs woman, Us versus them. (Biological stereotyping.). This “us” versus “them” mentality which is inborn in all of us tend to be easily converted into racism, biases, prejudices and preferences.
Eg- blue eyed vs brown eyed. Dark skinned vs white skinned.

Our brain is limited in how we perceive the world.

The strength of any belief is a matter of four interacting levels of neural processing: perceptual experiences, cognitive experiences, emotional experiences, and social consensus.

These cognitive biases or prejudices act as mental filters which distort our vision of reality.

As a Judge, mediator, or as a person, being aware of our own cognitive biases makes a difference to our assessment, judgment, responses. Only if we are able to recognize and overcome our cognitive biases, and also recognize and understand the cognitive biases of the people who come before us as litigants, clients and even everyday life, we will be able to make better judgments, resolve conflicts, respond adequately without over reacting.
1)CONFIRMATION BIAS:-
People often prefer to keep the beliefs and habits they have rather thn to change those beliefs in the light of new evidence. The confirmation bias is based on finding that people tend to listen more often to information that confirms the beliefs they already have. Through this bias, people tend to favour information that confirms their previously held beliefs.
In many cases, people on two sides of an issue can listen to the same story, and each will walk away with a different interpretation that they feel validates their existing point of view. This is often indicative that the confirmation bias is working to “bias” their opinions.
Take for instance issues like demonetization. Instead of listening to the opposing side and considering all of the facts in a logical and rational manner, people tend simply to look for things that reinforce what they already think is true.
We tend to listen to only that information that confirms our preconception.

2)HINDSIGHT BIAS:-
The hindsight bias is a common cognitive bias that involved the tendency of people to see events, even random ones, as more predictable than they are.
In a Bar Association election, 40 % of the advocates thought that “A” would win. After the election, when “A” won, more than 80 % said that they knew that “A” would win.
This tendency to look back on events and believe that “we knew it all along” is surprisingly prevalent. Following exams, students often look back on questions and think “Of course! I knew that!” even though they missed it the first time around. Investors look back and believe that they could have predicted which tech companies would become dominant forces.
The hindsight bias occurs for a combination of reasons, including our ability to “misremember” previous predictions, our tendency to view events as inevitable, and our tendency to believe we could have foreseen certain events.
3)ANCHORING BIAS:-
We also tend to be overly influenced by the first piece of information that we hear, a phenomenon referred to as the anchoring bias or anchoring effect. For example, the first number voiced during a price negotiation typically becomes the anchoring point from which all further negotiations are based. Researchers have even found that having participants choose a completely random number can influence what people guess when asked unrelated questions, such as how many countries there are in Africa.
Mind does not search for information in a vacuum. Rather it starts by using whatever information is immediately available as a reference point or anchor and then adjusting.
This tricky little cognitive bias doesn’t just influence things like salary or price negotiations. Doctors, for example, can become susceptible to the anchoring bias when diagnosing patients. The physician’s first impressions of the patient often create an anchoring point that can sometimes incorrectly influence all subsequent diagnostic assessments. If you ever see a new doctor and she asks you to tell her your whole story even though everything should be in your records, this is why.
It is often the physician, or analogously anyone trying to get to the bottom of a problem, who discovers a vital piece of information that was overlooked as a result of the anchoring bias.
When two parties are negotiating, one party agrees to pay Rs.10 lakhs to the other side, even though their demand was 50 lakhs. From that point onwards, this offer is the base from which the whole negotiation will be done.
Bottom line:- be sure to take into consideration both the differences and similarities between past and present situation in deciding whether they are same or different.
4) MISINFORMATION EFFECT also known as PERCEPTUAL BIAS:-
Our memories of particular events also tend to be heavily influenced by things that happened after the actual event itself, a phenomenon known as the misinformation effect. A person who witnesses a car accident or crime might believe that their recollection is crystal clear, but researchers have found that memory is surprisingly susceptible to even very subtle influences.
Retroactive interference:-
In one classic experiment by memory expert Elizabeth Loftus, people who watched a video of a car crash were then asked one of two slightly different questions: “How fast were the cars going when they hit each other?” or “How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?”
When the witnesses were then questioned a week later, the researchers discovered that this small change in how questions were presented led participants to recall things that they did not actually witness. When asked whether they had seen any broken glass, those who had been asked the “smashed into” version of the question were more likely to report incorrectly that they had seen broken glass.
Dispute between husband and wife. There was a fight, the wife alleges that the husband illtreats her in front of people. Husband denies. After the separation, the wife shored up her image by adding spice to it and thereafter starts to believe it as true.
A perception bias is a psychological tendency to lose objectivity in perception of people and situations. People may believe they are able to evaluate an event fairly and accurately, including making judgments about situations, but a number of biases interact with the way they perceive events.
One classic example comes up in eyewitness testimony, which is notoriously unreliable because of perception biases that can affect the way people remember and talk about the crimes they witness.
The human brain is constantly forced to make rapid decisions about situations and people, and has developed a number of forms of shorthand to quickly arrive at judgments. Some of these contribute to the formation of perception bias. Cultural and social pressures can add to these biases, Colouring perception even when people think they are being impartial. These can include tendency to make assumptions and attributions that are incorrect while believing they are right, or believing in logical fallacies.

5) ACTOR OBSERVER BIAS:- ME VS YOU BIAS;-
The way we perceive others and how we attribute their actions hinges on a variety of variables, but it can be heavily influenced by whether we are the actor or the observer in a situation. When it comes to our own actions, we are often far too likely to attribute things to external influences. You might complain that you botched an important meeting because you had jet lag or that you failed an exam because the teacher posed too many trick questions.
When it comes to explaining other people’s actions, however, we are far more likely to attribute their behaviours to internal causes. A colleague screwed up an important presentation because he’s lazy and incompetent (not because he also had jet lag) and a fellow student bombed a test because she lacks diligence and intelligence (and not because she took the same test as you with all those trick questions).
Husband complains that the wife is not looking after him. She refused to prepare dinner after they came home. After a long drive the parties came home. They are both tired. Dead tired. But the husband remembers only the wife refusing to prepare dinner. He thinks that was because she was lazy. He was also dead tired, that day. But he forgot it.
The family was having dinner together. The daughter in law drops a spoon. The mother in law scolds her for not being careful enough. The next day during dinner, the daughter drops a spoon. Now the mother in law says that there was oil on the spoon. That is why she dropped it.
Politicians tend to blame the circumstances for their mistakes and at the same time blame their opponents personally.
Bottom Line:- do not be too ready to blame the circumstances for what you do and personality for what others do.
6)FALSE CONSENSUS BIAS ( BANDWAGON EFFECT) :-
The projection bias is a type of cognitive bias that involves overestimating the degree to which other people agree with us. People tend to assume that others think, feel, believe, and behave much like they do.
People also have a surprising tendency to overestimate how much other people agree with their own beliefs, behaviours, attitudes, and values, an inclination known as the false consensus effect. This can lead people not only to incorrectly think that everyone else agrees with them—it can sometimes lead them to overvalue their own opinions.
Researchers believe that the false consensus effect happens for a variety of reasons. First, the people we spend the most time with, our family and friends, do often tend to share very similar opinions and beliefs. Because of this, we start to think that this way of thinking is the majority opinion even when we are with people who are not among our group of family and friends.
Another key reason this cognitive bias trips us up so easily is that believing that other people are just like us is good for our self-esteem. It allows us to feel “normal” and maintain a positive view of ourselves in relation to other people.
7)ATTRACTIVENESS BIAS {HALO EFFECT}:-
Researchers have found that students tend to rate good-looking teachers as smarter, kinder, and funnier than less attractive instructors. This tendency for our initial impression of a person to influence what we think of them overall is known as the halo effect.
This cognitive bias can have a powerful impact in the real world. For example, job applicants perceived as attractive and likable are also more liable to be viewed as competent, smart, and qualified for the job.
Also known as the “physical attractiveness stereotype” or the “what is beautiful is ‘good’ principle” we are either influenced by or use the halo to influence others almost every day. Think of a product marketed on TV by a well-dressed, well-groomed, and confident woman versus a woman who is poorly dressed and mumbling. Which appearance would be more likely to prompt you to go out and buy the product?
8) SELF SERVING BIAS:-
Another tricky cognitive bias that distorts your thinking is known as the self-serving bias. Basically, people tend to give themselves credit for successes but lay the blame for failures on outside causes.
When you do well on a project, you probably assume that it’s because you worked hard. But when things turn out badly, you are more likely to blame it on circumstances or bad luck. This bias does serve an important role; it helps protect our self-esteem. However, it can often also lead to faulty attributions, such as blaming others for our own shortcomings.
(9) THE AVAILABILITY HEURISTIC ( CLUSTERING ILLUSIONS):-
After seeing several news reports of car thefts in your neighbourhood, you might start to believe that such crimes are more common than they are. This tendency to estimate the probability of something happening based on how many examples readily come to mind is known as the availability heuristic. It is essentially a mental shortcut designed to save us time when we are trying to determine risk.
The problem with relying on this way of thinking is that it often leads to poor estimates and bad decisions. Smokers who have never known someone to die of a smoking-related illness, for example, might underestimate the health risks of smoking. In contrast, if you have two sisters and five neighbours who have had breast cancer, you might believe it is even more common than statistics tell us.

10) OPTIMISM BIAS OR OUTCOME BIAS ALSO KNOWN AS (OSTRICH EFFECT):-
Another cognitive bias that has its roots in the availability heuristic is known as the optimism bias. Essentially, we tend to be too optimistic for our own good. We overestimate the likelihood that good things will happen to us while underestimating the probability that negative events will impact our lives. We assume that events like divorce, job loss, illness, and death happen to other people.
Optimists are less realistic than pessimists when it comes to honestly assessing their own abilities or projecting future positive occurrences.
So what impact does this sometimes unrealistic optimism really have on our lives? It can lead people to take health risks like smoking, eating poorly, or not wearing a seat belt.
Or that they are going to win the case. No chance of losing.
Ostrich effect. Tendency to ignore the negatives and always focussing on the good sides.
Just because you won a bet in Las Vegas, does not mean that betting is good for you or you are going to win always.
The bad news is that research has found that this optimism bias is incredibly difficult to reduce. There is good news, however. This tendency toward optimism helps create a sense of anticipation for the future, giving people the hope and motivation they need to pursue their goals. So while cognitive biases can distort our thinking and sometimes lead to poor decisions, they are not always so bad.
Bottom line;- Reality testing. Trust the Numbers . Numbers do not lie.
11) STEREOTYPING OR GENERALIZING:-
We fail to perceive individuals as individuals. They are often viewed as representatives of social groups. Stereotyping allows us to perceive total strangers as distinctive individuals. These are known as social mind bugs.
Believing that all south Indians are good at Maths, or that All Chinese know kung fu or that all Malayalees are meat eaters. All film actresses have loose morals. All lawyers are liars. All auto drivers are cheats.
All govt officers are corrupt. The list of our generalizations and labelling is endless.
This is one of the main reasons that lead to disputes and conflict. Political parties misuse these biases to their advantage. Adding fuel to fire.
A father and son involved in a car accident. The father died. The severely injured son brought to the hospital. The surgeon on seeing the person lying on the bed says “ I cannot operate on this patient. He is my son.” Our immediate reaction is how can that be. The father died right.
When you see a person dressed as a doctor or nurse, at a hospital, you readily abide by their instructions. You are ready to strip naked in front of them.
When you see a priest or nun, you tend to be obedient and respectful of them.
You readily give your credit card to a sales person at a shop
This is called categorizing. Gordon Allport says “Human mind thinks with the aid of categories.” Once formed, categories are the basis for normal prejudgment. These categorizing by our brain gives rise to stereotyping.
It is generated from our past experience with people and events. Age, gender, religion, class, sexuality, disability, physical attractiveness, profession, personality are just a few.
Thus we associate certain categories with certain prejudged attributes- Africans with having rhythm, Asians with being good at Maths, women being inattentive drivers etc
This one size fits all mental boxes into which we force all members of a group, no matter how different they may be from each other is dangerous.
When a total stranger walks past you at the airport, immediately we tend to categorize him on the basis of sex, age, race, height & weight and maybe dress. Our minds activate all these stereotypes and we form a rich complex perception of the person, even though he is a total stranger.
Imagine what happens in the court room or in a mediation room
Stereotyping indicts a person even before the arrival of the prosecutor.
There are more than 200 different types of Biases that colour our mind and affect our decision making process. I have named only the most important ones.
HOW TO OVERCOME COGNITIVE BIASES

The moral is obvious: don’t believe everything you read or hear. And the neurological explanation for this is simple: our brain is calibrated to trust anyone who happens to be a “member” of our group or an authority figure. And so we are biologically biased to believe the magazines we buy, the news channels we select, and the people we personally like.

How to outsmart the mind bugs that reside within each one of us.

1.Identify and develop alternative points of view by seeking out individuals who disagree with you.
2. Interact with people of different backgrounds and beliefs.
3. Avoid “mirror-imaging”: do not assume that other people will think or act like you do.
4. Think backward. Instead of thinking about what might happen, put yourself in the future and try to explain how a potential situation could have occurred.
5. Imagine the belief you currently hold is wrong, then develop a scenario to explain how that could be true.
6. Try out another person’s beliefs by acting out the role. “Living” the role can break you out of your habitual mindset.
7. Play “devil’s advocate” by taking the minority point of view and defending it as rigorously as possible.
8. Learn from surprise – Pay attention to your feeling of surprise when a fact does not fit your prior understanding. Take the cause of the surprise seriously and investigate it, rather than deny, downplay, or ignore it. Learn to embrace the uncomfortable feeling surprise creates. Keep a record of unexpected events or information, think about what they might mean, and see if they are consistent with an alternative viewpoint or hypothesis.
9. Brainstorm. A quantity of ideas leads to quality because the first ones that emerge will reflect old beliefs. New ideas can help you break free of habitual patterns and blocks. Defer your judgment of those ideas. Separate the idea-generation phase from the idea-evaluation phase. A judgmental attitude dampens the imagination and may cause you to self-censor.
10) Ask questions. Double check supposed facts.

10)DEVELOPING A HABIT OF CONTROLLED SCEPTICISM/CONTRADICTION/OPENNESS
MAKE IT A HABIT
When you incorporate scepticism/contradiction/openness in your subconscious, only then you will be able to reduce your biases naturally and effortlessly.
To do this you have to consciously train your mind for some amount of time (will vary for everyone and by age, should be longer with increasing age).
This will require motivation, which will again vary from person to person but one way could be to create experiences which make you realize the importance of reducing cognitive bias.
11) USE LOGICAL THINKING:- logical thinking or critical thinking is the objective analysis of facts to form a judgment. Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking.
Pay attention to your reactions to people, news, social media posts, etc. Noticing the way that you react to things in your everyday life can help you to identify your biases. Anytime you encounter a person, news story, social media post, or new situation, pay attention to how you react to it. How did it make you feel? What did you do in response?
For example, if you encounter a picture of someone who is obese and you notice that you reacted with disgust, then you may have some hidden prejudice against people who are overweight.
Keep in mind that identifying unconscious biases can be a difficult process because they are unconscious. But by making a conscious effort to notice your responses to different people and situations, you may begin to identify your unconscious biases.

Label stereotypes that impact your biases. Finding out that you have biases against certain people can make you feel many things, from denial to shame. If you want to overcome these biases, however, the first step is having the courage to call them what they are.
Remind yourself that everyone harbors certain biases, and that we can all work to treat others in more tolerant, open-minded, and respectful ways.
Also, watch for stereotypes in the media. For example, if you are uninformed about gun rights, but you find yourself agreeing with media that says guns are bad and gun owners are right-wing fundamentalists, then you may be buying into stereotypes about gun ownership.
Combat your positive stereotypes as well. It’s easy to think of biases as negative perceptions. A negative bias means something like thinking that women do not drive as well as men, or that one race is more prone to criminal activity than another. Having unfounded positive biases against people can also lead to discrimination, however.
For example, a teacher who subconsciously assumes that people of Asian descent are good at math might overlook a student who actually is struggling.
List ways that unconscious and hidden biases impact your behavior. If you can see specific ways that biases relate to your actions, you may be more motivated to overcome them. Whatever roles you have in society, stop and think about how you unconsciously act on your biases, once you’ve identified them. For example:
If you are a police officer, how does bias impact the work you do in your community?
If you are a manager, what effect do your biases have on how you oversee your employees, hiring, etc.?
If you are a mediator, Judge, how does biases affect your judgment.
As a citizen, do you alter your behavior around certain types of people? For example, are you more likely to avoid eye contact with certain groups? Are you more talkative with or friendly to strangers of one type than another?

learn to recognize and avoid generalizations. Remember that not everyone in a group, community, or organization is the same. Whenever you find yourself making a generalization about a group of people, stop yourself. Ask yourself why you think that way and change your perspective.
Ask yourself, “is it really possible that every single member of this group is the same?” The answer is most likely “no.”
For example, you might find yourself thinking that a certain group of people are loud. Why do you think that? Consider that perhaps it is just an individual from that group who is loud. Change your thinking from “all people in this group are loud” to “one person from this group I met was very loud” or even “a few (but not all) people from this group are loud.”
Practice individuation.
In terms of biases, individuation means giving a “face” or personality to members of a group, rather than making assumptions that lump them all together. For instance, if you find yourself affected by biased thoughts against women, make associations with specific individuals.
For instance, if you find yourself thinking that women are materialistic, ask yourself whether or not this applies to specific women in your life, like your mother, your pharmacist, your city’s police chief, or a clerk at the store.
Expose yourself to the people and things that make you feel uncomfortable. By learning more about a person, lifestyle, or topic that you disagree with or that you have noticed yourself exhibiting bias towards, you can begin to build compassion.
For example, if you find yourself feeling disgusted by people who are obese, then research some of the causes of obesity to build your understanding of how people get that way.
If you find yourself frustrated every time you see a post about gun ownership, then research the issues that gun owners care about, such as by visiting the NRA’s website.
Put yourself in others’ shoes. Also known as “perspective taking,” this technique is a great way to lessen the impact of judgments you might make automatically. For instance, if you feel biased in thinking that people with kids are no fun:
Take a moment to imagine the busy schedules and demands of parents.
Ask yourself if their idea of fun might simply be different from your own. Watching Harry Potter with a bowl of popcorn might seem boring to you, but it might be lots of fun with kids around.
Focus on concrete factors rather than gut feelings. Whether they’re positive or negative, gut feelings can sometimes lead us astray. When you feel the impact of a bias, challenge these gut feelings by looking at concrete factors.
For instance, if you find yourself walking quickly past someone of another group, ask yourself: is there anything that person is actually doing to make me feel threatened?
Keep in mind how your biases impact how you view situations, however. For instance, a smile from someone belonging to a group you are more accepting of might seem fine. Your biases might make a smile from someone of another group seem threatening.
Think positive thoughts around people you have stigmatized. Consciously adopting more positive thoughts can be a very good way to combat negative biases. For instance, you might imagine that you have a bias that makes you feel uncomfortable with men taking care of small children. Whenever you see a man in a positive caregiving role, make a point of consciously noting this
Increase opportunities for contact with a diverse range of people. If you spend all of your time around people who are just like you, it will be harder to overcome the biases you have. Getting to know people who are different from you can be a powerful way to foster understanding and acceptance.
Make friends with lots of different kinds of people. Make a point of inviting them to events to get to know them better. For example, you could invite everyone in your neighborhood to a block party, or reach out to other parents at your child’s school to host a picnic at a local park.
Get involved with organizations in your community that bring diverse people together (or start one!).
Learn from people who are more tolerant than you. The old saying is that hate breeds hate, but the reverse is true, too: tolerance breeds tolerance. If you are concerned about your unconscious and hidden biases, think of people you know who seem especially open. Spend time around them, and you’ll be more motivated to break down your own biases.
Surround yourself with open-minded media. Just like individuals, media services (television channels, internet sites, podcasts, radio stations, etc.) all have some degree of bias. Some promote these biases, consciously or unconsciously, while others have a goal of trying to be open-minded.
Pay careful attention to the media sources you use. If you hear prejudicial or discriminatory language, seek other sources.
Look for other types of bias in the media as well. For instance, does a news show interview a diverse range of people, or only those who look, think, or believe a certain way? Does it report on a wide range of issues, or only a narrow set of interests?

I hope that all those who read this article become more aware of how important it is to recognize our cognitive biases which shape our beliefs and create prejudices in our mind. How these beliefs, prejudices affect our perception of the world around us. How important it is to keep an open mind without pre judgment, without jumping to conclusions and without assuming anything. How important it is to avoid generalizations and labelling those around us. Understanding our biases is the first step to control our biases and disregarding our belief systems. This will change the way that we perceive those around us and the society around us. Finally it is the best way to recognize potential conflict situations and avoid it. Much of the disputes that we have is all inside our mind. Perceptual. Not rooted in reality. Once we understand how our mind works to create our biases and prejudices which affect our perception of reality, the disputes will melt away and the world will be a much nicer place and peace of mind will be the ultimate effect. First let us understand ourselves and how our biases, prejudices and beliefs affect our world view. Throw away those yellow colored spectacles and see the world as it is. Then this world will be a much nicer please to live.

I am indebted to “ Why we believe what we believe” By Andrew Newberg, “Blind Spot” by Mahzarin Banaji & Antony Greenwald, ‘Minefields” by Burt webb for getting the ideas for this article.

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