Have you ever been here? You are staring down your caseload size or the amount of work you have and a sense of injustice starts to creep. Sometimes work levels or compensation seem tolerable, but then you go to a conference or hear about another SLP and their circumstances seem better. Maybe it’s accurate or maybe it’s not. But how do these feelings color our perception and affect our mood? Can we do anything about it and does thinking this way actually do us any good? Is there a way around it? Research on fairness bias suggests there is.

Fairness, a concept deeply ingrained in our societal fabric, is often the lens through which we perceive the world around us. But what exactly is fairness bias?

Fairness bias is our innate tendency to view situations through the prism of equality, often leading us to perceive discrepancies or inequalities where they may not exist.

The Monkey Experiment: A Lesson in Fairness Bias

To illustrate fairness bias, let’s delve into an intriguing experiment conducted with Capuchin monkeys. In this study, monkeys were presented with a task and rewarded with either cucumbers or grapes. Initially content with cucumbers, the monkeys’ reactions changed dramatically when they observed their counterparts receiving the more desirable grapes. This simple experiment revealed a profound truth: the innate sense of fairness transcends species boundaries.

This is hysterical:

Fairness Bias in Speech Pathology

In the realm of speech pathology, fairness bias manifests in various scenarios, often stemming from misconceptions or misinformation. Consider the perception of workload distribution among speech pathologists. Instances may arise where one speech pathologist appears to have a lighter caseload than others, leading to feelings of unfairness. Similarly, interactions with other special education personnel, such as diagnosticians or LSSPs, can also be fraught with perceptions of inequality.

While the pursuit of equality is admirable, it’s essential to recognize that true equality is often elusive. Disparities in workload or responsibilities may arise due to factors beyond our control, such as experience level or personal circumstances. For instance, a seasoned professional may be entrusted with more complex tasks, while a newcomer undergoes a learning curve. Moreover, unforeseen events, such as illness or family emergencies, can disrupt workload distribution, leading to temporary imbalances.

Navigating Fairness Bias: What is Your Most Generous Interpretation?

How can we navigate fairness bias in our professional lives? By adopting a mindset of generosity and empathy, we can extend understanding to our colleagues and collaborators. Rather than jumping to conclusions or harboring resentment, we can seek to understand the underlying reasons behind perceived inequalities.

But this isn’t so easy! I find that most of the time my mind has made a decision about a person or situation long before I can summon up any generosity. That’s kind of human nature. However, there is a really effective strategy attributed to Becky Kennedy and her book Good Inside.

Good Inside for fairness bias

Your Least and Most Generous Interpretation

Allow yourself the space to see your Least Generous Interpretation of a situation (LGI). Simply acknowledge it.

She never gets her work done on time. She just doesn’t care and now I am going to receive her portion of the report and am going to submit it late.

Then come up with your Most Generous Interpretation (MGI).

The scheduling software is actually pretty bad, and I bet she didn’t even get notified. This is her first year now that I think of it, and I don’t actually know what else is on her plate.

Your MGI may not be true, but do you see how your LGI is probably not true either?

The LGI-MGI Comparison:

  • Stops us from jumping to conclusions.
  • Makes us pause.
  • Allows us to extend grace.
  • Forces us to ask questions instead of making assumptions.
  • Often preserves relationships.

Furthermore, strategic planning and proactive communication can mitigate the impact of fairness bias. By anticipating busy periods and coordinating schedules accordingly, we can alleviate undue stress and foster a more collaborative work environment. For example, by rescheduling work to less congested times, we can optimize productivity and minimize conflicts.

For school professionals, this could mean moving evaluations, annual meetings, and banking extra “make-up” therapy in the fall to allow for the craziness of spring. For early interventionists and home health SLPs, this means calling ALL of tomorrows clients today at 5PM so that your “no-show” rate doesn’t have you driving all over the place for missed visits. For the clinic SLPs, this means recording your session data AS your informal testing data so it is ready for the next eval and you only have to update the standardized testing.

Conclusion: Embracing Complexity

Fairness bias reminds us of the intricate web of perceptions and assumptions that shape our interactions and decisions. By cultivating empathy and challenging our preconceptions, we can reshape our professional relationships and boost our mood along the way.

Fairness, after all, is not merely about equal distribution but about acknowledging and valuing the unique contributions and circumstances of each individual. In this journey towards fairness, let us navigate with humility, compassion, and a willingness to question our own biases. It’s in these moments of introspection and growth that we truly embody the spirit of fairness.

7 Types of Bias and How They Affect Speech Language Pathology

This is one of eight essays we wrote on bias, based on the work of Daniel Kahneman and the research we put together for the ASHA CEU course: How Ethics and Biases Shape Our Decisions: A Fun Look at Research on Heuristics. Start with the inspirational article on Daniel Kahneman and then work your way through seven ways our hidden biases can unknowingly influence our thinking.

Overview: Celebrating Daniel Kahneman (3/5/1934 – 3/27/2024) and His Enormous Impact on Bias and Our Work

  1. Navigating Fairness Bias in Our Role as SLPs
  2. Framing Effect: Shaping Perspectives with Words
  3. Understanding Availability Bias: Challenging Perceptions During Evaluations
  4. Deciphering the Conjunction Fallacy – Overlap or Isolation of Disorders?
  5. The Overconfidence Effect – Misperceptions About Amount of SLP Work and How Long it Takes
  6. Embracing Loss Aversion: Balancing Risk and Reward in Speech Pathology
  7. Freedom from the Anchoring Effect: When Numbers Work Against Us

How Ethics and Biases Shape Our Decisions: A Fun Look at Research on Heuristics

WordPress Lightbox