Check Your Bias

A few weeks ago, I began my final semester of my senior year at BYU. Like most, I started the term with excitement, enthusiasm, and only slightly less motivation than I’d had previously. The plan was to coast through my last twelve credits, get my degree, find a job and head out to D.C. to work in (fix?) Congress. As I walked into my first class that Monday morning, I was shocked as I listened to my professor explain the purpose of the course: to prove to us why the modern liberal movement is fundamentally flawed.

As a liberal student studying politics and government at a university such as BYU, I am no stranger to a conservative narrative. I am used to comments from students that unknowingly target my closely held political beliefs, and have even grown accustomed to professors sharing opinions that I don’t identify with. But I had never been exposed to such a blatant bias as this, at least not in an academic setting. Immediately, I realized that my former plan for the semester was not going to be possible. This class was going to be difficult, not in matters of workloads or tests, but because I was going to be told repeatedly that my closely held, carefully selected political beliefs were wrong.

Initially I was extremely frustrated, but then I realized what better preparation could there be for one preparing to begin a political career than to listen to and learn from someone who sees the world so differently than I do?

Disagreement and dissonance are crucial parts of a democracy. If accompanied by listening and a willingness to understand, disagreement can promote tolerance and encourage people to think more deeply about their previously held ideas [1]. It can help each of us to have well-thought out views and an ability to understand a different perspective. It is not enough to simply occasionally hear an opinion contradictory to our own; we should constantly seek them out. In so doing, we can strengthen what we believe in, deepen our understanding of those around us, and become better citizens.

No one has a monopoly on truth. When consuming news or reading political content it is dangerous to stick to a single narrative. One narrative creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is often not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete [2]. By consistently listening to a single viewpoint, it becomes the only viewpoint, leading many to believe that anything contradictory is false or “fake news.”

In practice, I am trying to go just as far away from my bias as I go towards it. I love following Chris Cuomo and listening to Pod Save America, and so I make myself listen to Ben Shapiro, and I follow Fox News on all social media platforms. I follow each member of Congress, both major political parties, and a wide variety of political commentators on Twitter. And now, I go to a lecture twice a week and listen to a highly educated, conservative professor give me his view of the world.

For others, it might (and probably will) look different. Exposing myself to an array of opinions has helped me to diversify my frame of understanding and be more open minded towards people who have had experiences different from my own. This behavior often doesn’t change my mind, but it has completely transformed my view of conservatives, liberals, and moderates. It has helped me to abandon previously held stereotypes and look on those ideologies with more tolerance and empathy. And, in an increasingly hostile and polarized political climate, “what we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another” [3].

Here are a few different sources with varying biases that can help diversify the information we consume and help promote understanding. Try picking one or two that don’t fit your current narrative and adding them to your life.

News:

  • Fox News
  • MSNBC
  • CNN
  • ABC News
  • BBC News
  • Reuters
  • The Guardian
  • Politico
  • The Hill
  • NPR
  • The National Review
  • The New York Times
  • The Blaze
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • The Washington Post
  • PBS News

Podcasts:

  • The Daily
  • NPR Politics Podcast
  • The Federalist Podcast
  • Left, Right, and Center
  • The Sean Hannity Show
  • Pod Save America
  • The Ben Shapiro Show

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[1] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2056305118797721

[2]https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

[3] https://www.jfklibrary.org/learn/about-jfk/the-kennedy-family/robert-f-kennedy/robert-f-kennedy-speeches/statement-on-assassination-of-martin-luther-king-jr-indianapolis-indiana-april-4-1968

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Katie Clements

Katie Clements is a senior from Boise, Idaho studying Political Science. Katie is passionate about Harry Styles, reusable sandwich bags, Boise State football, happy meals, and constantly challenging her opinions. In her freetime Katie reads Bobby Kennedy biographies and the short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald. She religiously watches Meet the Press and the Bachelor because they both keep her “well-rounded.” After graduating, Katie plans to move to Washington D.C. to work in Congress, but her ultimate career goal is to become a lobbyist for a major refugee agency.

Katie Clements

Katie Clements is a senior from Boise, Idaho studying Political Science. Katie is passionate about Harry Styles, reusable sandwich bags, Boise State football, happy meals, and constantly challenging her opinions. In her freetime Katie reads Bobby Kennedy biographies and the short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald. She religiously watches Meet the Press and the Bachelor because they both keep her “well-rounded.” After graduating, Katie plans to move to Washington D.C. to work in Congress, but her ultimate career goal is to become a lobbyist for a major refugee agency.

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