A woman drinking coffee and reading a book in a library

Are You a Biased Reader?

Yes, you’re a biased reader. You can’t help it. “Often, the factors that make someone biased about a topic are also the factors that make them knowledgeable about it” (Huemer p.37). The more you know about something, the more you tend to defend it. And if you’re emotional about it, your bias compounds.

Let’s analyze a benign example so that we don’t ruffle too many feathers this morning. Here’s the question: Is drinking coffee good or bad for you?

It’s a simple question, but note your initial response to it. You probably had a quick “gut reaction” due to your knowledge and emotion. Perhaps you can reference some academic studies or books you’ve read, or perhaps you hate the taste of coffee. Maybe, it’s your favorite thing in the world, and no matter what the literature says, you’re going to find a way to defend it.

Now, consider how my question made you feel emotionally. If you’ve been drinking coffee every day for ten years, you may have an emotional connection due to the addictive nature of caffeine. Or, perhaps someone spilled coffee on you once, giving you second-degree burns and, therefore, physical and emotional trauma. Would that change how you feel?

You’re biased on almost every topic. Does that mean that we’re doomed, as readers, to only seek out literature that affirms what we already believe and feel? Yes and no.

Yes, we’re doomed because people naturally want to feel good, and seeking confirmation feels good.

No, because we are capable of being objective. “Just being aware of a bias makes that bias less influential” (Huemer p. 39). If you truly want to get educated on a topic, start by identifying the bias you have. Then take a long time to consider why you may be wrong, and read the literature that supports those claims.

You may find that you don’t have everything figured out and that other people have some pretty good ideas.

Just something to consider.

Until tomorrow, read slowly – take notes – apply the ideas.



Works Cited:

Huemer, Michael. Knowledge, Reality, and Value. Michael Huemer, 2021.

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