Do Your Biases Affect Your Research & How You Interact with Information?

Do Your Biases Affect Your Research & How You Interact with Information?

We all have biases. When conducting research are you able to remove your biases so you can vet information with more rigor and maintain an authoritative voice for a college essay, your dissertation, doctoral committee, or peer reviews? How do your biases affect the way you interpret information in journals, social media, and news stories that might be part of your sample?  Let’s start with some definitions including Confirmation Bias, Anchoring, Affinity Bias, Conformity Bias, Halo Effect, Explicit and Implicit Bias:

  • Confirmation Bias - Individuals who typically only search for information that confirms their own biases.
  • Anchoring - Individuals who rely on the first piece of information that typically aligns with their biases.
  • Affinity Bias - Individuals who typically prefer the company of people they know and like.  This may preclude them for searching valid information from unfamiliar but otherwise trusted sources.
  • Conformity Bias - Individuals who value information that others approve so they feel like they fit in.
  • Halo Effect - Individuals who may only align with information by people who have the same education level, income, or who have achieved similar milestones they value like themselves.
  • Explicit Bias - Biases one admits or are so obvious they are out in the open.
  • Implicit Bias - Hidden biases that one may not be aware they possess.

Next, take this 7-question non-scientific survey. Your responses will be confidential, but you can see how they stack up with other participants. What do the results reveal? If you answered true to any of these questions, you are not alone. Whether applied to searching for information in our personal lives or utilizing information for research, we all need to continuously check how we interact and interpret information. On the research side, our voice can detract from the non-bias scientific role we must maintain because no matter how passionate we are about conducting research, that passion should not interfere with our ability to connect with the usefulness of peer reviewed literature as well as helping to debunk gaps in the literature for which some bias may exist.

For example, third party research in industry is less bias than for-profit companies who conduct the research on themselves. Conversely, peer reviewed publication who continuously only draw from a pool of authors they are most familiar, are bias to the cronyism that hinder their ability to draw from lessor known references who might otherwise provide valuable conclusions but cannot compete with the popularity of their much-trusted published colleagues (Halo, Conformity and Affinity Bias Affect). Newer peer reviewed and/or open-sourced publications draw suspicion because they offer more access and/or their rigor not widely accepted. The list goes on and on and on. Still, as researchers, we must vet information for its authenticity and objectiveness.

To do so we must analyze what other attribution and sources such research uses to draw conclusions and examine its citations for any possible conflict of interest or hidden agendas that might otherwise make the data or recommendations skewed. Just because something is peer reviewed and published may not necessarily mean it is the final word on the topic. To analyze all the information we search for we must avoid being a victim of fallacies like hasty generalizations and apply our due diligence using critical thinking and simply taking the time not to formulate a final opinion based on the first piece of information we find and instead continue to do an exhaustive search utilizing all the databases available to us including the Elton B. Stephenson Company (EBSCO), ProQuest, ProQuest Digital Dissertations & Theses, ERIC, among the most peer reviewed to name a few (To avoid Anchoring and Confirmation Bias).

As we formulate our research questions and study, we must check our implicit and explicit biases so that our questions are meaningful not just to us, but to the broad community made up of so many different types of people, organizations, and cultures. Think, think, think, and rethink! Play with the terminology, nomenclature, the vocabulary until all parts of your question makes the most sense with the least amount of bias. Do your personal biases interfere with your ability to conduct meaningful research?  Only you can answer that question which in a way can be bias. That is why your doctoral committee and/or your coauthors, as well as the peer review committee aboard prospective journals, are to serve that purpose. Everyone along the bias chain must continuously inspect bias within and out so if anyone is to lead a national conversation on any topic, it can strive to make the most sense. 

For information on curtailing bias when simply interacting on social media check out my book (a nonprofit effort), Bias Is All Around You: A Handbook for Inspecting Social Media & News Stories, a 2022 Nautilus Book Award Silver Medallion Recipient. Good luck as you hone your school, professional, and personal work to continuously strive to curtail bias.  

 

Comments

Joseph Hoffman's picture Joseph Hoffman | June 25, 2022 7:30 am MST

"Just because something is peer reviewed and published may not necessarily mean it is the final word on the topic" (Bean, 2021) is a fundamental cornerstone of quality research.  Linking this to the topic of researcher bias, acknowledging and discussing other supporting and contrary research is important in all research publications.  Furthermore, the support/contrary discussion demonstrates in the literature review the advanced knowledge of the topic being researched.  From a more practical perspective, it seems that main stream and extremist media tend to cling onto a single published research article results as the final position of researchers instead of emphasizing the need for multiple blind peer reviewed research articles thereby unintentionally or intentionally misleading the public.

Erik Bean's picture Erik Bean | June 30, 2022 11:04 am MST

Hi Joseph, your comment, "...it seems that main stream and extremist media tend to cling onto a single published research article results as the final position of researchers instead of emphasizing the need for multiple blind peer reviewed research articles thereby unintentionally or intentionally misleading the public.," has much merit!  The news media are not academicians and we cannot necessarily blame them for squeezing out what appears to be the most important facts from any particular study.

That said, your observation about further research that can more validate any particular study is plausable, but it depends on how the study was conducted, the population, and generalizations to the population. Over generalization is a byproduct of some studies. Still, if there is no other information regarding that particular type of researcher, the results may be the only benchmark available to make decisions moving forward. Thanks for stopping by!  

About the Author

2021

Articles/Blogs

Journal of Leadership Studies-Symposium Piece-Relational Leadership: Perspectives of Key Constructs on Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Equity in Higher Education

Psychology Today
Blog Posts Published

Conferences

American Psychological Association Conference-Utilizing Clinical Hypnotherapeutic Intervention with CBT to Treat Pandemic-Aug. 13-2021 Symptomology

ILA Conference Geneva Switzerland 2021
Presenter -Topic-"The Stress Arc in Leadership and 3 Powerful Disciplines for Mitigating Major Stress Impacts in a New Era"-Upcoming
Presenter -Topic-“Improving Higher Education’s Role in Diversity and Social Equity through Relational Leadership in the New Era”-Upcoming
Presenter-Topic-"Healthcare Leadership-Using Virtuous Leadership in Chaos to Reimagine Beneficial Practices of Employee Cognitive Psychology"-Upcoming
 
2021-Knowledge Without Boundaries National Summit-College of Doctoral Studies Research Conference-University of Phoenix-Panel Discussion-"Exploring Emergent Trends in Leadership and Education"-Based on published symposia article from the Journal of Leadership Studies- https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jls.21734

 

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