… a core concept in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100

Concept description

The Oxford Dictionary defines bias as an inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair.’s Psychological Glossary defines cognitive bias as “an involuntary pattern of thinking that produces distorted perceptions of people, surroundings, and situations around us.”

It goes on to say (reference below):

“An example of a cognitive bias is attentional bias in which more attention is placed on things to extreme interest to a person. This can be seen in drug addicts who have greatly increased attention to drug related stimuli in comparison to other things, such as reacting more quickly to a photograph of a drug related object than a photograph of an animal. Another cognitive bias is the Fundamental Attribution Error which is when a person uses personal and internal attributes to explain someone else’s behavior (“That person got a bad grade because they are lazy”) while using external and situational factors to explain their own behaviors and consequences (“I got a bad grade because the professor doesn’t like me”).

“Some research suggests that cognitive biases are mental processing “shortcuts” that allow us to make decisions faster when time is a more important issue than accuracy of judgment. These types of cognitive biases are used more frequently when we have limited mental processing capabilities due to lack of time or lack of knowledge about a subject or situation. This is purported to be evolutionary in nature so that we can identify possible dangerous situations quickly. An example of this would be noticing someone running towards you quickly as you were walking down the street at night. Instinctively you are cautious and wary of this person and quickly head in the opposite direction. If you had taken time to observe and think about the situation you would have realized that this was a person going for a jog but you were alarmed due to a cognitive bias to identify a possible dangerous scenario.”

Psychology Today (reference below) defines bias as a tendency and goes on to say:

“Most biases – like preferring to eat food instead of paper clips – are helpful. But cognitive shortcuts can cause problems when we’re not aware of them and we apply them inappropriately, leading to rash decisions or discriminatory practices. Stereotype threat, for example, is the confirmation of negative stereotypes about another person’s race, gender, group, and so on. Relying on biases but keeping them in check requires a delicate balance of self-awareness.”

See also PrejudiceStereotype and Jessim’s Analysis of Stereotype Accuracy.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Diversity, Identity, and Rights (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Oxford Dictionaries, bias, at, accessed 5 February 2017., Cognitive Bias, at, accessed 5 February 2017.

Psychology Today, Bias, at, accessed 18 December 2016.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 5 February 2017.

Image: Jory MacKay, Crew, at, accessed 18 December 2016.