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My (un)Biased Thinking


My friend Matt recently shared a podcast series titled Learning to See, produced by the Center for Action and Contemplation and hosted by Brian McLaren, Richard Rohr, and Jacqui Lewis. This series suggests 13 different biases that we can have, each serving as a lens through which we view the Bible, culture and current events. Here is the list, complete with a brief description of each. For the purpose of the podcast’s discussion, bias is defined as our “precritical (or prejudiced) inclination toward what we see or think.”

  1. CONFIRMATION BIAS. The human brain welcomes information that confirms what it already thinks and resists information that disturbs or contradicts what it already thinks.
  2. COMPLEXITY BIAS. The brain prefers a simple lie over a complex truth.
  3. COMMUNITY BIAS. It is very hard to see something that your “group” does not want you to see.
  4. COMPLIMENTARITY BIAS. If people are nice to you, you will be open to what they see and think. If they are not nice, you won’t.
  5. CONTACT BIAS. If you lack personal contact with someone, you won’t see what they see. In other words, put on the other person’s shoes and try to see from their perspective.
  6. CONSERVATIVE / LIBERAL BIAS. Our brains like to see what our political party sees and aligns itself accordingly.
  7. CONSCIOUSNESS BIAS. A person’s level of consciousness makes seeing some things possible and some as impossible. Our brains see from a location.
  8. COMPETENCY BIAS. We are incompetent in knowing how competent or incompetent we really are, se we may see less or more than we do. Our brains prefer to think of ourselves as above average.
  9. CONFIDENCE BIAS. Our brains prefer a confident lie to a hesitant truth.
  10. CONSPIRACY BIAS. Our brains like stories and narratives that cast us as either the hero or the victim. Never the villain.
  11. COMFORT BIAS. Our brains welcome data that allows us to be happy and relaxed and rejects data that creates discomfort.
  12. CATASTROPHE BIAS. Our brains recognize sudden changes for the worse, but miss the subtle changes taking place over time. The brain is wired for normalcy.
  13. CASH BIAS. It is hard to see anything that interferes with our way of making a living. We see and think in accordance to our personal economies.

Granted, that’s quite a list, and its hard to admit that I would be guilty of possessing any of them, even periodically. I can concede that some of these are easier to recognize in my thinking than others. But recognizing that these are possible is the first step in overcoming them. Having been exposed to that possibility creates a responsibility to monitor myself and self correct when I sense they are present. Finally, I have the opportunity to then enter into constructive conversations where humility trumps hubris and certainty. Old dogs can learn new tricks, but only if they’re willing and open to learn. Stripping away biases one by one has the potential to elevate our thinking from secondary sources that are satisfied to overhear toward having convictions that are rooted in principles and values. For more information on The Center for Action and Contemplation, check out www.cac.org. The Learning to See podcast is available at your preferred podcast app.

Categories : Spiritual Formation


  1. Laura DeLong says:

    Thanks for this, Tim. Some I didn’t know about and some I did, but it’s helpful to have them all listed together.

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