5 Steps to Correct for Own Bias

This article briefly describes how to correct for own bias. It’s motivated by the question of a Facebook friend: “What steps do you take to actively correct for your bias when you want to determine the answers to complicated socio-economic questions?” The answer, I think, is applicable to all sorts of questions.

  1. Other-orientedness
    1. Unconscious bias is a thing, so I correct for that in part by approaching my own views with general skepticism except where logically decisive.
    2. I generally accept the laws of logic and empiricism as transcendental and objective. That is, where I can provide a well-structured argument leading to the result.
    3. Own empirical results are also taken with a grain of salt because of measurement error and selection and interpretation bias.
    4. I heavily weight the opinion of others as a group. Not individual others, but other people as a collective, and particularly the group of other people providing data and logically valid argumentation. This gives some extra weight to, for example, academic articles.
  2. Introspect and rephrase
    1. Actively try to notice my bias and rephrase a presumption or intuition into a question or hypothesis.
  3. Evidence-based argument
    1. Obtain data and engage in data analysis on that data.
    2. Generate findings according to academic practice.
    3. Talk to other people about results (see 4).
    4. If I generally convince other people, I take it that I’m unbiased enough. If I don’t, I take it that it’s possible I’m wrong.
    5. Being unbiased enough is a real thing, and it’s not the same as being perfectly free from bias. If I’m unbiased enough, I move on. My overarching goal is maximum productivity, not obsessive dwelling on perfectly removing own bias. I accept that the latter probably can’t be done, perhaps with the exception of a rare breed of axiomatic and decisive logical arguments.
  4. Argue Respectably
    1. Give extra weight to people who I know have a tendency to make true statements.
    2. Give less weight to people who I know to have specific bias.
    3. Ironman arguments from others rather than strawmanning their arguments.
    4. Engage in charitable argumentation.
    5. Give extra weight to conversation from respectable conversation, where respectable conversation is non-obvious, non-edgelordy, and non-fallacious/insulting/red herring. It is positively constituted of 2-3 standard deviations of weirdness and genuine interest by all parties.
  5. Become accustom to being wrong
    1. Related to both 1.1 and 3.4, but called out specifically. By developing this as a general expectation, I find myself open to others being right more often.
    2. Adopt a “rising water lifts all shifts” attitude and be genuinely happy when other people are right or successful, even outside of argument. In belief formation, logic is great but we are also human. We are subject to volitional response which influences us in certain directions. Getting used to being wrong attenuates this issue, but actively celebrating victories of others can further attenuate or reverse this issue. As a side effect, it may enhance social relations and result in a more positive disposition.
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