N4L 164: "Everyday Bias" by Howard Ross


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By Janet Perry, Janet Perry: blogger, and Nonfiction book lover. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.


Howard Ross, a lifelong social justice advocate, has authored the Washington Post bestseller, Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives. Smashing long-time myths we hold dear, Ross addresses the many faces of unconscious bias. His book offers a plethora of data and anecdotes illustrating the urgency to develop a greater awareness of our own irrational beliefs and leanings. In short, Ross lays out a strong case for watching ourselves more carefully to notice and at least neutralize our biases.


  • Unconscious Bias - comes from social stereotypes, attitudes, opinions, and stigma we form about certain groups of people outside of our own conscious awareness; can be fed by snippets of information that we might get from biased media or social media or other sources, which are often taken out of context
  • Theory of Mind - the ability to attribute beliefs, intentions, wants, and knowledge to others, and to understand when others have beliefs that are the same or different from our own
  • Superego - the civilizing facet of the personality structure, controlling the id through rules that we have picked up during our life
  • Selective Attention - a mental process through which we see some things but not others, depending upon our point of focus
  • Diagnosis Bias - the propensity to label people, ideas, or things based on our initial opinions
  • Pattern Recognition – the tendency to sort and identify information based on prior experience or habit (includes stereotyping)
  • Confirmation Bias - a tendency for people to gather information or respond to a circumstance in a way that confirms their already established beliefs or ideas
  • Priming - the implicit tendency to respond to something based on expectations created by a previous experience or association
  • Anchoring Bias (AKA focalism) - the common tendency to rely too heavily or “anchor” on one trait or piece of information when making decisions
  • Mirror Neurons – cause us to feel a deep connection to the experiences of others; sometimes called “the basis of civilization”


  • “Unconscious influences dominate our everyday life. What we react to, are influenced by, see or don’t see, are all determined by reactions that happen deep within our psyche. Reactions which are largely unknown to us.”
  • “We are constantly making decisions that are influenced by unconscious biases. In fact, even when our biases seem conscious, they may be influenced by a pattern of unconscious assumptions that we have absorbed throughout our lives.”
  • “Whether you think they should or not, qualifications rarely have anything to do with Presidential elections. In fact, since 1950 arguably the least qualified candidates won more often than they lost! Whether we should or not, we vote for president based on how the person makes us feel.”
  • “We are trained to think we can talk people out of their points of view if we give them the right ‘evidence.’ But…political biases actually distort our ability to reason logically. In the battle between emotion and rationality, emotion usually wins!”
  • “Most people I know like to think of themselves as ‘good people.’ We like to think that we treat everybody around us fairly, at least most of the time, and we shudder to think that we might be biased in our nature. And yet it is apparent that to be biased is almost as normal as breathing, and that our hidden fears and insecurities often get expressed in the various ways we react and respond to each other.”
  • “We like to think we are rational, and that our emotions are secondary. This is not unusual in Western cultures. We have a long history of valuing the rational over the emotional.”
  • “We tend to have much greater empathy for people who are similar to us, particularly racially.”


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