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Prejudice & Critical Thinking

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Joseph A. Bailey, II, MD
A weight lodged on one side of a bowl to convert it from a flat position on a straight line to a tilt favoring the weighted side represented the basic idea inside “Bias” and “Prejudice when these undifferentiated words came into English in 1300 AD. By the end of the 16th century “bias” was being applied more specifically to the game of bowls in the sense of the ‘bowl’s curved path. This application resulted from the practice of placing a weight in a bowling ball to make it deviate from a straight line. The bowl’s curved path,” as it rolled down the ally, was called the “bias.” Shakespeare borrowed this concept and defined “bias” as any thing which turns a man to a particular course. By 1649 the “bent path” aspect referred to “bias” as: (1) a tendency towards favoring a certain opinion or conclusion;

(2) a tendency to make errors in a certain direction; (3) systematically distorting a set of data; and (4) the theoretical or emotional preconceptions or prejudices of individuals or groups which may lead to certain subjective interpretations radically different from “objective” reality. By this time “prejudice” was distinquishing itself in the legal arena by possessing a higher degree of motivational-emotional factors resulting from actions causing harm or injury.

As the terms “bias” and “prejudice” separated from each other, pertinent differences included the following. Whereas prejudice occurs when you do not know the facts or have not examined the facts and do not want to be confused by the facts, bias is developed by viewing the facts and then selecting only those facts which support your point of view. Yet, there remained overlap or common elements of “bias” and “prejudice”— things like the implication of a preference, outlook, or adverse opinion that prevents impartial judgment. “Prejudice” was then thought of as an attitude, opinion, or judgment often grounded on emotions, fancy, or association and made without due examination. Prejudices were seen to predispose one to make either negative or positive judgments about persons, places, objects, concepts, or groups prior to “objective” evaluation.

Nevertheless, the prejudiced person was not necessarily led to commit any hostile actions. Today, “prejudice” means a tendency, usually below ones awareness, to see facts or people or things or places in a certain non-factual way. Prejudice rejects evidence that conflicts with preconceived beliefs. Reasons for this narrow and fixed view include ones habits, comfort zone, familiarity, wishes, desires, interests, values, or need to “save face.” It takes an intense desire and dedicated Critically Thinking efforts to rise above the self-defeating flaws associated with bias and prejudice because both can be almost “second nature.”

You might start by determining if your fault-finding is based on something other than information.

An important reason for clearing your mind of any biases and prejudices is that its closed-mindedness fails to consider the reasons and facts concerning all sides and all angles of all parts of the issue being assessed. Instead, it rigidly and unfairly rejects whatever is stereotyped and not favored and thereby cuts off communication between all involved parts so that healing can not occur. One then becomes so separated from the prejudice thing as to joke about, insult, avoid, and ignore it.

Prejudiced Bullies often become violent toward their scapegoats.  Some of these disharmonious thoughts and mean displays are ingrained and difficult to overcome.  Others can be easily given up. Yet, good biases and prejudices relate to taking calculated risks. One who can not make a move unless one is certain of being right will lose opportunities to make things better. Those who succeed in life choose in accordance with biased Critical and Rational Thinking assessments of the subjective factors; select preferences related to the situation;and then take calculated risks.

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