It is very difficult for us to tell when we are likely to favour one way of looking at things or when we favour one type of information over another. For example, take the fact that many people have similarly described spiritual experiences regardless of their religion. Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and even Atheists alike have shared similar experiences. To me this tells me that due to the experience not coming from one religion alone then not one particular religion can claim that this experience is caused by that religion and therefor is proof of that religion’s God. However, many people, including friends of mine, see that this must mean that some sort of God exists and if some sort of God exists then it must be their God. Both of us have a bias for what this information means to us. What side of the fence we sit on after being exposed to new information is one way in which bias can express itself. Conspiracy theorists are perfect examples of the extreme forms of bias. They don’t think, “I am reading information and letting it strengthen my beliefs because I have a bias” they just think that they are receiving correct information and increasing the certainty of their beliefs accordingly.
Bias is not just about where the information drives us. It is also about what we accept as good information. For example, when a conspiracy theorist reads an article from a random website that says, “A former CIA operative who wants to remain anonymous has leaked information to us that proves that the earth is flat. Due to the life threatening nature of this information we cannot share it but it is unequivocal proof that the earth is indeed flat.” They read this and just think this is correct information and add it to the pile of “facts” that prove the earth is flat. When I hear information like this it gets filed in the “bullshit to forget” part of my brain and receives no more attention.
We all have bias of some sort, every single one of us, and there is no “feeling” of having bias. Having bias in favour of our beliefs, if anything, just feels like learning correct information. Having a bias against information that would challenge our currently held beliefs, if anything, just feels like resistance. We either read something and it confirms what we already want to believe or, if we have a bias against that type of information, we feel a resistance to it and think, “it must be wrong”. This is what makes it hard to have conversations with people who have opposing views to our own because we have spent so long following the path our bias leads us down that we must be right and they must be wrong. And we don’t simply just forget we also have bias; we think that the person we are talking to must have a bias and that we do not. This is the irony of doing our own research; we often end up in a place of our own subconscious choosing.