How to Overcome Unconscious and Hidden Biases

Two Parts:Understanding BiasWorking on the Bias

Buried prejudice and biases are surprisingly influential underpinnings to all the decisions we make, affecting our feelings and consequently actions. And there are times when not recognizing this influence on your choices and decision making can do more harm than good.

Primarily it is very important to understand biases in order to overcome it and this tutorial contains a few methods to try out to overcome your unconscious and hidden biases.

Part 1
Understanding Bias

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    Consider various ways you can gain some insight into your bias. Biases affect us all in ways we seldom fully realize, even when we have one we are aware of and would like to deal with. We may see ordinary, happy people living their day-to-day life in all kinds of environments, but they all have a bias of some kind which is directing their intentions. Biases can be positive or negative aspects of human nature; they all influence how we act and interact with other people and events. It's important to compare our biases, because the way we create biases in our minds is the same process for both mild biases and severe ones. Some aspects to consider include:
    • People form their personal identity based on a wide scope of aspects, but one of the most pervasive is bias. We often hold onto our biases because we feel they make us what we are. However, this is ultimately deceptive, as a bias is not what or who we are. Indeed, our biases change often. It is equally proportionate to the difficulty it is to let go of a bias in relation to how precious it is to us.
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    • People of similar thinking often pool together, like raindrops that form a lake. There is nothing wrong with this, but hanging around the like-minded can influence you quite strongly, as a form of peer pressure. People select their partners, friends and associates according to personal biases and actually often train each other to adopt personal biases without realizing. This is largely because we want our friends to be like us. It can also happen exactly in the reverse, in that we want to be like our friends and so we adopt the same biases. We are highly susceptible to influence from others (current and historical life has shown we also commit suicide, murder and even war due to the power of influence.) And for an example many people can relate to––many employers look for employees with similar thoughts and feelings.
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    • Bias and prejudice may often have been something someone has told you, or that you heard as a third party. As such, they're not always your own original opinion but one you have adopted. It may have been adopted recently, or a long time ago, and the older it is, the more tricky it may be to overcome its influence.
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    • Sometimes the bias reappears in the mind on impulse, such as seeing or hearing of something related to the object of your bias. It can also expand by being made aware of something that is similar to your original bias. Very often there is an emotion behind your prejudice, such as greed (wanting something to be, something to happen), hatred (rejecting or wanting something to go away etc), or just ignorance of the object itself.
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    Explore the dynamic of biases. Meditation is a good way to investigate your bias as well as how your mind acts in relation to them, as well as how they get created. Another good method is to discuss it with a friend, counselor, or a psychologist.
    • Bias is often a complex aspect, it mostly because our minds rely and uses measurement as a central way to process data. Every interaction and experience we encounter is measured by the mind in order to analyse and determine it. This determination can be a bias on its own (either a new one, or reinforcing an old one), but this determination depends on pre-existing biases and assumptions as well as experiences that you have developed over your lifetime.
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    • The process of measurement is almost exclusively related to the past, specifically information we have heard or been influenced towards by other people, or our own experiences. If a mind is free from such bias and assumptions, it will typically approach the event with a clean slate, but with the clear intention of determining what it is. Recognizing this dependence on the past, or that the reflection of the past we measure against is not actually the thing we experience right now is a very useful way to overcome bias.
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    • People consequently seldom like those who "sit on the fence", who are secretive about their feelings or are neutral. The reason for this is that they cannot easily categorize, predict or rely on such people to be manipulable to suit their own agenda. Being able to rely on another person is an important aspect, but while a person may be reliable, without trust people would still be hesitant to rely on that person. Trust is often built on finding common biases and prejudice as a way to identify with a person (and for probability calculating).
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    • The flipside is the case when a person sees someone with skillful, beneficial or admirable qualities and feels inclined to adopt and practice these same positive qualities. This is usually called positive influence but it works in the same way as its opposite case (when someone adopts harmful or unskillful biases from negative influences). We model our good behavior from qualities we all have, but only from seeing others do them in a normal environment. Adopting biases is a way to be accepted by others, be it for better or worse, but can also be a way to improve oneself if the biases are of the positive kind.
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Part 2
Working on the Bias

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    Recognize that the specific bias exists. This is the beginning stage to enable you to overcome it. If you can, this means admitting there is a bias, as in really admitting it, not just thinking there is a bias. Often this is very difficult for most people to do honestly, as it is somewhat of a humbling act. But doing this will help you to explore it more in depth, as you are prepared to be more open. By recognizing your bias and what it relies on to stay in the mind, then you are one step closer to getting rid of it.
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    Consider why it is usually so difficult to remove biases. There are often three main problems at play:
    • 1. You often feel distant and uncomfortable with the fact that the object of the bias simply exists. This can be because you don't actually know anything about the focus of your bias. You might have heard plenty of negative stories about what you have a bias of, but how much of that is true or relevant?
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    • 2. As you identify with your prejudices, it can feel like you are surrendering part of yourself up, or betraying your cultural identity for someone else you don't know. These issues are often the main cause why many are reluctant to overcome their bias. Of these problems, the exact same question has to be asked as that of the bias––is it causing you more harm than good?
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    • 3. You may feel you have a bias but have not really come to a conclusion that it should be abandoned. Consequently, many parts of your mind will struggle against overcoming them as the bias is still attractive to certain parts of the mind.
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    Ask yourself questions. This is an effective way to not only gain an insight but to lessen the grip the bias has on you. Whenever the thought or bias arises, you can ask yourself: "Is this bias of mine fair, relevant or even worthy of having?"; or, "does this prejudice own me?"; or, "does this help anyone?"; or, "OK, it's a prejudice, but what is this prejudice, how did I get it, why is it so powerful, why do I find it important?". This can help you understand as well as let go of the thought as it no longer seems attractive.
    • Many philosophers have also pointed out the benefits of being unbiased, in that you are virtually nonstick. Not only in a way that mud doesn't stick to you, even though life will always throw it at you, but also that as you wade through life, you can avoid it sticking to you and getting swamped. This means you can avoid getting snarled in pointless arguments, as you have transcended a powerful bait and trap system and you can be more happy, healthy and wise.
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    Meet the object of your bias head on with an open mind. The most effective (and hardest) way to get around it is to meet it face to face. Say you have a bias against a certain religion or nationality. Find out if their society or embassy is holding an open day and then go and meet people of that group. Your bias might be unjustified and you might meet some new friends at the same time.
    • Look for the humanity in the object of your prejudice. Everyone is human and has feelings, thoughts, wishes and dreams. It's just that everyone identifies with their own culture and at some time in history, their culture was isolated from yours and developed differences.
    • Use movements of time to your advantage. Biases have their roots in time, which means they are subject to change as well as modification. With each passing month or year, or a special date such as a birthday, you can use these measurements of time to choose and commit to leave the past behind and look at the future with a clean slate.
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    Ultimately take things a step at a time. It becomes easier the more you want to let go of the bias. The whole process of overcoming a bias is to understand what a bias is and how you got them, whether they are for your benefit and well-being or will make you cold-hearted and cruel. Finally check your own feelings about subjects regularly. Doing this can allow you to start to build practice and skills in letting go of the bias, able to overcome it through investigation and attention.


  • If you have ever meditated before, try looking into goodwill meditation. This is where you wish yourself, your loved ones, friends and acquaintances all the way down to strangers and people in other lands to be happy, healthy and successful. This is very helpful to overcome any ill will in your biases as eventually you build strength to be able to wish those you have prejudice against the exact same happiness and health. This does take some time to develop however as it requires a strong foundation of understanding.


  • Looking for perfection can be a problem as are setting up more ideals and biases. No human or humanity is 100% perfect or 100% flawed.
  • We can't help other peoples' prejudices, we can only help our own. Trying to make someone change largely makes them defensive, evasive and/or aggressive. As no-one is perfect (desire of perfection is something we create), it is a fruitless endeavor.

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