We want to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of Daniel Kahneman; psychologist, author, economist, and winner of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. For those of you not familiar with his work, he dedicated his life’s research to understanding bias, systems of belief, and how all humans fall prey to irrational thinking.  

His research experiments and writing were simultaneously hysterically funny and profoundly impactful. His work demonstrated profound implications of how we can all fall prey to our own thinking despite our best intentions. And, his work impacted many of the breakthroughs that we have had at Bilinguistics.

Have you have ever used one of our Venn Diagrams to identify which sounds you should work on with a bilingual child?  This requires you to rationally divide sounds into groups that are influenced by a home language and sounds that are truly being produced in error. To pull this off we have to step outside what we may think is “right” and “wrong.”

Have you used our literacy-based intervention materials? Those were born out of need to find therapy intervention targets that were not heavily influenced by culture, experience, literacy levels, and home-language influence. Tough right? And it’s made more difficult because our culture and upbringing bias us towards liking one type of narrative over another.

Have you used our used our methodologies to reduce your caseload or dismiss students? You had to sidestep your “beliefs” about institutional referral and dismissal processes that have been in place since the dawn of time and be willing to try something out-of-the-box.

Clearly, I am a better speech therapist and can clearly diagnose when I can look at data objectively. Kahneman’s work helps me get there. So much so that I created a (funny in my own estimation!) CEU course on how SLPs succumb to bias.

I was moved by the many tributes to his work after his recent passing so I want to revisit how SLPs are not immune to bias and will cover each form of influence across the next several essays. I’m really excited about this topic because typically when we talk about ethics and when we talk about ethics and preconceived opinions, it’s a very, very heavy topic.  However, by looking into research from psychology and from other fields we can talk about biases and have a little fun with it.

Understanding Bias: A Journey into Human Perception

Let’s use this space to understand the topic and then we’ll deep-dive into each type of bias across the next few essays.

What is Bias?

Bias is the subtle force that guides our perceptions and decisions, often without our conscious awareness. It’s the inclination to lean towards or against something, shaping our understanding and judgments. Simply put, bias means lacking a neutral viewpoint on a particular topic.

But here’s the tricky party; without thinking about bias and acknowledging that we all have it, we are not necessarily awake to its influences. Then, we arrive at a conclusion thinking we are in neutral territory when there may have been a subconscious influence.

Why do we have bias?

Biases are ingrained in the fabric of our cognition, stemming from the human brain’s natural tendency to categorize new people and information. This categorization helps us navigate the complexities of the world by connecting new stimuli to past experiences.

Enter heuristics:

Heuristics; the mental shortcuts that streamline decision-making, allowing our brains to conserve energy and operate more efficiently.

These shortcuts manifest as trial and error, rules of thumb, or educated guesses, enabling us to make swift decisions without exhaustive analysis.

Can we get rid of our biases?

While some biases arise due to logical fallacies and misconceptions inherent in human thinking, completely getting rid of bias is not really possible. Yes, there are specific biases that we can identify and overcome. However, the brain is hardwired to perceive the world through filters shaped by our experiences and socialization. This means that we are continuously developing new biases in the guise of “mental shortcuts,” such as stereotypes and jumping to conclusions.

Awareness is the powerful antidote! Recognizing our biases is the first step towards mitigating their influence. This way, we can actively work to counteract their effects and make more informed, equitable decisions.

Why should we avoid bias?

The implications of unchecked bias are far-reaching and profound. By striving to minimize bias in our thoughts and actions, we aim to:

Avoid Mistakes: Biases can lead us astray, clouding our judgment and resulting in erroneous conclusions.

Prevent Offense: Unchecked biases can inadvertently perpetuate stereotypes or discriminate against certain individuals or groups.

Embrace Innovation: Overcoming bias opens the door to new perspectives and approaches, fostering innovation and growth.

Understand our Perspectives: Examining our biases allows us to gain insight into our own thought processes and motivations.

Respect Others: By acknowledging and addressing our biases, we demonstrate respect for the diverse perspectives and experiences of others.

The First Step? Understanding We All Have Biases

Acceptance is the gateway to transformation.

Bias comes in all sorts of sneaky forms. Just when you think you have it figured out in one direction, it creeps in from another.

Recognizing that biases are a universal aspect of human cognition sets the stage for meaningful change. While confronting our biases may feel uncomfortable, it’s a necessary journey towards greater self-awareness and empathy.

Luckily, psychologists have kept things interesting by running funny experiments on everyone from kids to adults to professionals to capuchin monkeys! We will cover many of these in the next seven essays.

They are a tribute to SLPs who are always looking for ways to improve their thinking and to the work of a great and influential researcher.

7 Types of Bias and How They Affect Speech Language Pathology

  1. Navigating Fairness: Understanding the Dynamics of Bias
  2. Framing Effect: Shaping Perspectives with Words
  3. Understanding Availability Bias: Challenging Perceptions and Embracing Complexity – COMING SOON!
  4. Deciphering the Conjunction Fallacy: Navigating Probability and Perception – COMING SOON!
  5. Mastering the Overconfidence Effect: A Journey from Perception to Productivity – COMING SOON!
  6. Embracing Loss Aversion: Balancing Risk and Reward in Speech Pathology – COMING SOON!
  7. Staying Free from the Anchoring Effect: Deciphering Influence in Speech Pathology – COMING SOON!

The Transformative Ideas of Daniel Kahneman – Hidden Brain Podcast

Want to learn more about Daniel Kahneman and have a commute? Hidden Brain Podcast aired two incredible interviews with him.

The Hidden Brain: Daniel Kahneman

Image Attribution: The Hidden Brain Podcast - bias

Image Attribution: The Hidden Brain Podcast

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