The Merriam-Webster definition of bias is:
● 1a: an inclination of temperament or outlook especially: a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment: prejudice
● b: an instance of such prejudice
● c: bent, tendency
● d (1): deviation of the expected value of a statistical estimate from the quantity it estimates
● (2): systematic error that’s introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others
We are all biased. No one is immune. Columnists quickly learn that readers can respond differently to words and ideas with one person launching a verbal attack while another calls the author a genius.
There are several kinds of biases:
● Cognitive biases develop from repetitive patterns of thinking that are based on inaccurate or unreasonable conclusions.
● Confirmation bias occurs when people tend to search for and rely on information that supports what they already believe. In the process they ignore information that goes counter to their beliefs even though the information may be highly relevant.
● Attribution bias occurs when someone attributes reasons or motivations to the actions of others without concrete evidence.
Cognitive biases may help people make quicker decisions, but those decisions aren’t always accurate. As we go through life it’s important to be aware of our cognitive biases and make deliberate attempts to counter their effects whenever possible. Many times these biases involve race, appearances, religion, politics, food, etc. Of course when assessing research we must utilize critical thinking processes, but guard against ignoring data that might not back our preconceived notions.
Targeting confirmation bias is a favorite marketing tactic used by marketers (pied pipers) in order to appeal to misinformed and gullible consumers. In the healthcare and health food industries there are thousands of examples.
Personally I try to be as scientifically based as possible. I try to be open minded and often seek out countervailing viewpoints just to test the waters. I have found that it’s often a good practice to know both sides of a debate well enough to make an argument for each side. Of course, I still write off some opinions as absolutely nutty. Yet I’m also aware of my ingrained biases such as forming an opinion of someone just at first glance. Since appearances can be deceiving, I try to slow down my judgements and develop more information.
In the food department personal biases run the full gamut. Many people are totally out of control and go with the flow for whatever. In most cases those people are literally addicted to many foods and, even if they knew a better diet would help their health, they are powerless when it comes to change.
But aside from the food addicts, there are many people who actually try to eat healthier foods. Most are aware of the USDA guidelines that emphasize vegetables, fruit, and whole grains while discouraging the consumption of red meats, salt, sugar, and fat. Many of these people think that organic defines the healthiest food. Yet most of the people in this group will not pass up cereals, breads, sweets, pastries, and candy. Their bias is slanted toward simplicity, convenience, favor, and socializing with the traditional slow foods approach. Unfortunately we can count on the media, restaurants, and personal friends to reinforce their biases every day.
Very few consumers actually study nutritional science. This minority understands that the body consists of chemicals and requires a proper balance of chemicals in order to function best. As you can imagine, they had to realign their biases over the years with facts that differ from common knowledge.
● Foods are bundles of powerful chemicals and elements.
● Most plants naturally produce herbicides and insecticides and many are toxic.
● Organic pesticide applications work because they are toxic.
● Humans should minimize their consumption of sugar, carbohydrates, and high glycemic foods.
● Grass-fed red meats, Omega-3 meats, and wild-caught seafood are superior all-around foods.
● The green leafy vegetables are the best vegetables because they are nutrient dense, low glycemic, low carbohydrate, with lower than 1:1 Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential fatty acid (EFA) ratios.
● A good overall diet provides an EFA ratio of 2:1 or less.
● A low EFA ratio is a better marker for superior heart health than low cholesterol.
● EFA ratios above 4:1 are associated with higher incidences of chronic diseases, autoimmune diseases, pain, and mental disabilities.
● Nutritional scientists are very critical of the USDA MyPlate guidelines.
● Low fat and low salt are not healthy choices.
● Doctors prescribe pills and operations and know very little about nutritional science.
This abbreviated list of facts flies in the face of most personal biases which is why in the past sixty years no progress has been made in reducing the incidences of chronic disease. Changing personal biases is very difficult since they’re like blinders on a workhorse. Unfortunately, without change one always gets what they always got.
To your health.
Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.
Don’t miss these links for additional reading:
Bias, Noun Definition by Merriam-Webster
What Is Bias? from Psychology Today
Think You’re Not Biased? Think Again from Society for Science and the Public
Omega-3, a Prescription? by Ted Slanker
Organically Grown Poisonous Plants by Ted Slanker
Salt Water by Ted Slanker
Oil is Oil is Fat by Ted Slanker
Another Crazy Myth: Eat for Your Blood Type by Ted Slanker