Today, I discuss biases. What they are, how they’re innate, and the value of having the best preferences.
Table of Contents
- Biases Are Apart of Human Nature
- How to Adjust Your Biases Toward Virtue
- Let Your Biases Serve The Best Within You
Biases Are Apart of Human Nature
“We all see only that which we are trained to see.” – Robert Anton Wilson
A bias is “A preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment.”
Human beings view the world through subjective lenses. These lenses are shaped by experience, trauma, observation, history, and objective reality. These biases are incredibly powerful and will influence how individuals act within and respond to the world.
Biases are innate. They are formed unconsciously through active pursuits and passive experiences. For example, trauma can shape how we view an entire class of people. Or our frequent successes will determine our inclination towards certain activities or ideas.
Preferences are not wrong. There is nothing inherently bad about having an appreciation for certain people, ideas, or actions. However, it is crucial to accept humans cannot live without preferences. We will always value some things over others, and our biases shape this valuing.
How to Adjust Your Biases Toward Virtue
Our biases should point us toward virtue and away from vice. The more we have biases against that which is spineless, additive, and weak-willed, the easier life becomes. Why? Because your unconscious mind will push you away from what will hurt you.
As I said, you will have biases. You will view groups of people a certain way, turn up your nose at specific behaviors, and look down at certain vices. Why not orient your mind towards the ideas, people, and actions that are worthy of your unconscious derision?
1) Understand Virtue and Act Virtuously
If you want to orient your biases towards what is good, you must seek the good in your actions. Therefore, live as virtuously as you can, and you will understand what is good.
2) Develop Self-Knowledge
“We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” – Jane Austen
Our experiences shape us. Therefore, self-knowledge is key to understanding your preferences, biases, and inclinations.
The path of self-knowledge requires asking questions about your actions: why am I doing this? What do I hope to achieve? Why do I believe this action is best? Therefore, journal. Confront your emotional responses towards specific events or individuals.
Self-knowledge allows you to answer a fundamental question: why do I have my biases and where do they come from? Do they arise from trauma or observations about objective reality? Uncovering where your preferences originate gives you insight into your limitations, triggers, and hangups.
3) Identify Evil and Weakness
Identifying evil and weaknesses means understanding what is detrimental to the growth and wellbeing of society and individuals.
The evils are easy to spot: socialism, collectivism, abuse, and so on. We all know that socialism has killed hundreds of millions of people. Or physical abuse is horrid, and we shouldn’t engage in it. These things are obvious but still worth knowing, thinking about, and considering.
However, we must also avoid weaknesses such as addictions and vices. We should seek to tally our iniquities, ask why we engage in them, and measure their long-term effects.
Once you understand evil and identify your weaknesses, you can orient your biases against these troublesome elements.
4) Show Disdain
Biases are unconscious, automatic rejections of specific ideas, objects, or people. You can train your unconscious mind to ensure your preferences align with what is virtuous.
How do you do this? By understanding virtue, yourself, and what is evil. Once you know what is virtuous, you have to accept it is good without worrying about the difficulty involved in pursuing the good. For example, going to the gym is good. Don’t think about the hard work involved. Just reflect on better health and wellbeing. You have to view virtuous actions and things positively.
Conversely, evil and addictive things are negative. Don’t think about the pleasure certain vices give. Remind yourself that vice is terrible whenever you see it, or when it pops up in your mind.
This conscious thinking requires time to rewire your perspective. As I said, don’t think about the work involved or the pleasure gained. Remind your mind that virtue is good and vice is bad. This effort will help your unconscious properly categorize your biases.
5) Track Your Life
Lastly, track how your life has improved since you’ve adopted better standards. For example, when I wanted to cut back on processed, sugary foods, I categorized eating candy as “bad” within my mind. I would think about how disgusting it was, how expensive the treats were, and how bad I felt after eating them.
I still ate candy but less and less, despite how tasty they were. Eventually, my unconscious disliked when I held candy. I didn’t want it. This doesn’t mean I’ll never eat candy again or desire any, especially as a gift. But I haven’t purchased candy, soda, or other sugary treats in over a year because I’m unconsciously biased against such food. I don’t have to rationalize why I shouldn’t eat sugary foods – I unconsciously hate looking at or thinking about the stuff. And thus, I don’t buy it.
You can do the same thing. Track the biases and preferences you want to build so you can see how well you are improving.
Let Your Biases Serve The Best Within You
“I have yet to see a piece of writing, political or non-political, that does not have a slant. All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular.” – E.B. White
You will always have biases. Therefore, adjust your unconscious oppositions against what is evil and weak. If your mind can react negatively against what will harm you, you will spend less time thinking about every little detail. With more time on your side, you can pursue virtue, sustainable pleasures, and the company of virtuous people.
- What are ideas, objects, and people you are biased against? Who are you biased towards?
- What is a bad habit you wish you could break? Have you tried viewing it negatively? What pleasure does the bad habit give you? What could you accomplish without this habit in your life?
- What virtue do you struggle with the most? Which one is the easiest?
- What was your childhood like? How do you think your experience shaped the person you are today?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.