By Robert Pembroke
After proofing my final column on the Kavanaugh hearings a few weeks ago, my wife looked up and asked, “Will the paper let you publish this? You sound so biased.” Now, that instantly got my attention and I pondered the question throughout the night and here are my thoughts:
Yes, I am biased. I am biased against people who use their connections for their own personal gain. I am biased against politicians who use their political office for their own personal gain. I am biased against politicians who use the suffering of others for their own personal gain. Most of all, I am biased about people who lie, cheat and steal.
With the advent of powerful search engines, you can find out all sorts of things. With this in mind, I Googled the following: “How can you tell if you are biased?” The nice Google lady brought forth myriad answers, one of which was an article from the website Science News for Students from June 2017 titled “Think you’re not biased? Think again.”
The article discussed all sorts of things about being biased, of which, in my opinion, the two most important comments were as follows: First, “But all people harbor beliefs and attitudes about groups of people based on their race or ethnicity, gender, body weight and other traits. Those beliefs and attitudes about social groups are known as biases.” The second comment was “Learning about people from different backgrounds who engage in positive behaviors can help you to unconsciously associate that group with positivity.”
I was not aware that I was that biased until my wife told me, but according to the article I have a unconscious or implicit bias. This doesn’t mean I am a bad person, but that my brain has trouble getting things right.
Cheryl Staats, an ethnicity researcher at Ohio State University, says the brain receives 11 million bits of information every second but we only can process 16 to 40 bits per second. So, what does this have to do with being biased? It means, as near as I can tell, that if you get bitten by a horse, you subconsciously think that all horses will bite you.
I am not the only person in our household that is biased. My wife readily admits to being biased against Donald Trump. Up until the spring of 2015, when she found out that Trump was running for president, my wife had not shown any signs of being biased. Now, how do I know my wife is biased? Well, for a minimum of 15 minutes our dog and I hear about Trump’s previous day's outrages and misguided statements.
The other night at dinner, my wife explained why she was biased against Trump. She said, “Bob, I was raised not to say insulting things about people. I was not raised to lie to people. I was told not to say hateful things about people. Bob, I was raised to be nice to people.” My wife is justified about being biased toward Trump and she is also very wise.
Speaking about Trump, I have never seen a more biased person. When Donald Trump first came on the political scene, I thought that he was being so outlandish in order to become notorious and I said to myself, “Now that’s a new way to politic.” Yet, we must admit that the tactic was effective. I have read that Trump didn’t think he could win the Republican nomination for president. But win he did.
So now that we all know that we are biased, what should we do about it? In my case, I am not going to do anything when it comes to my wife being biased against Trump. Occasionally, when my wife says something blatantly wrong about Trump, I have corrected her. Big mistake. From now on, I will just sit back and just say, “Yes, Dear.”
Robert Pembroke is the former chairman and CEO of Pembroke’s Inc. in Salt Lake City.