What is Bias?

Bias is a one-sided or unbalanced view of things and is often based on  a person’s feelings. It can be used to persuade or prejudice someone towards a particular viewpoint. 

Bias Examples

Have a look at the two statements written below. They were both written before the 2019 General Election in the United Kingdom. One is written by a Conservative party supporter and one by a Labour party supporter.

Can you work out which is which?

The Conservatives will get Brexit done and use the money saved to improve the NHS. They have promised to recruit 20,000 new police officers which will reduce crime.”

“The Conservatives will push Brexit through even if that means there will be no trade agreement with the E.U. Over the last 10 years the Conservatives have drastically cut the numbers of police officers. 20,000 will not redress that reduction in numbers.”

The statement in blue was written by a Conservative while the one in red was written by a Labour supporter.

Bias can also occur as a result of someone’s past experiences. Have a look at the two statements below. One is written by someone who was bitten by an Alsatian when they were a child and one is written by someone who had a pet Alsatian as a child.

Can you work out which is which?

“Alsatians are the most loyal dogs. They are also very playful and loving and make excellent pets for families. They are very good with people, both adults and young children and have their own personality.”

“Alsatians are nasty, vicious dogs. They are unpredictable and impossible to train. There should be a law that says that people cannot have Alsatians as pets. Personally, I would have all of them put down.”

The statement in blue was written by the person who had a pet Alsatian as a child and the one in red was written by the person that was bitten by an Alsatian as a child.

Intentional Bias

Intentional bias is when information is purposely selected to prove a particular viewpoint or opinion. Facts which do not support that viewpoint are left out on purpose.

Bias - Blue car

This car is for sale at Dave’s Deals.

It has had three owners, one of whom used it for racing.

It has also been in an accident and had to have a new bonnet and windscreen.

Additionally, it makes a knocking sound if it goes above 60 m.p.h.

Here is Dave’s sales pitch:

“A beautiful little car. It has had two careful owners and would be great for driving around the town. The front of the car is in particularly good condition.”

Notice how Dave has not mentioned the third owner who used the car for racing. He has also suggested only using the car in the town where the speed limit is 30 or 40 m.p.h.

Unintentional Bias

Unintentional bias is when someone thinks they are being honest and accurate but they do not have all the facts or have been given the wrong facts by someone else.

Polluted river

A new warehouse had been built next to a river.

Since the warehouse opened the river had become more polluted.

A new detergent factory had also opened recently and it had been dumping waste in the river.

The local newspaper reported the incident

“The warehouse must be closed down as soon as possible. They are polluting the river with waste products which will affect the health of our residents. They should also be made to pay to have the river water cleaned.”

The newspaper makes no mention of the new factory, possibly because the reporter had not realised that it had been built.


Citation Information:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2020). What is Bias?. Available: https://www.historykeyskills.com/what-is-bias/. Last accessed September 24th, 2021

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