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For other uses, see Bias (disambiguation).

Bias is an inclination or outlook to present or hold a partial perspective, often accompanied by a refusal to consider the possible merits of alternative points of view. Biases are learned implicitly within cultural contexts. People may develop biases toward or against an individual, an ethnic group, a nation, a religion, a social class, a political party, theoretical paradigms and ideologies within academic domains, or a species.[1] Biased means one-sided, lacking a neutral viewpoint, or not having an open mind. Bias can come in many forms and is often considered to be synonymous with prejudice or bigotry.[2]

Cognitive biases[edit]

A cognitive bias is a repeating or basic misstep in thinking, assessing, recollecting, or other cognitive processes.[3] That is, a pattern of deviation from standards in judgment, whereby inferences may be created unreasonably.[4] People create their own "subjective social reality" from their own perceptions,[5] their view of the world may dictate their behaviour.[6] Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.[7][8][9] However some cognitive biases are taken to be adaptive, and thus may lead to success in the appropriate situation.[10] Furthermore, cognitive biases may allow speedier choices when speed is more valuable than precision.[11] Other cognitive biases are a "by-product" of human processing limitations,[12] coming about because of an absence of appropriate mental mechanisms, or just from human limitations in information processing.[13]


Main article: Anchoring

Anchoring is a psychological heuristic that describes the propensity to rely on the first piece of information encountered when making decisions.[14][15] According to this heuristic, individuals begin with an implicitly suggested reference point (the "anchor") and make adjustments to it to reach their estimate. For example, the initial price offered for a used car sets the standard for the rest of the negotiations, so that prices lower than the initial price seem more reasonable even if they are still higher than what the car is worth.[16][17]


Main articles: Apophenia and Pareidolia

Apophenia, also known as patternicity,[18][19] or agenticity,[20] is the human tendency to perceive meaningful patterns within random data. Apophenia is well documented as a rationalization for gambling. Gamblers may imagine that they see patterns in the numbers which appear in lotteries, card games, or roulette wheels.[21] One variation of this is known as the "gambler's fallacy".

Pareidolia is the visual or auditory form of apophenia. It has been suggested that pareidolia combined with hierophany may have helped ancient societies organize chaos and make the world intelligible.[22][23]

Attribution bias[edit]

Main article: Attribution bias

An attribution bias can happen when individuals assess or attempt to discover explanations behind their own and others' behaviors.[24][25][26] People make attributions about the causes of their own and others’ behaviors; but these attributions don't necessarily precisely reflect reality. Rather than operating as objective perceivers, individuals are inclined to perceptual slips that prompt biased understandings of their social world.[27][28] When judging others we tend to assume their actions are the result of internal factors such as personality, whereas we tend to assume our own actions arise because of the necessity of external circumstances. There are a wide range of sorts of attribution biases, such as the ultimate attribution error, fundamental attribution error, actor-observer bias, and self-serving bias.

Confirmation bias[edit]

A drawing of a man sitting on a stool at a writing desk
Confirmation bias has been described as an internal "yes man", echoing back a person's beliefs like Charles Dickens' character Uriah Heep.[29]
Main article: Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's beliefs or hypotheses while giving disproportionately less attention to information that contradicts it.[30] The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations). Confirmation biases contribute to overconfidence in personal beliefs and can maintain or strengthen beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. Poor decisions due to these biases have been found in political and organizational contexts.[31][32]


Framing involves the social construction of social phenomena by mass media sources, political or social movements, political leaders, and so on. It is an influence over how people organize, perceive, and communicate about reality.[33] It can be positive or negative - depending on the audience and what kind of information is being presented. For political purposes, framing often presents facts in such a way that implicates a problem that is in need of a solution. Members of political parties attempt to frame issues in a way that makes a solution favoring their own political leaning appear as the most appropriate course of action for the situation at hand.[34] As understood in social theory, framing is a schema of interpretation, a collection of anecdotes and stereotypes, that individuals rely on to understand and respond to events.[35] People use filters to make sense of the world, the choices they then make are influenced by their creation of a frame.

Cultural bias is the related phenomenon of interpreting and judging phenomena by standards inherent to one's own culture. Numerous such biases exist, concerning cultural norms for color, location of body parts, mate selection, concepts of justice, linguistic and logical validity, acceptability of evidence, and taboos. Ordinary people may tend to imagine other people as basically the same, not significantly more or less valuable, probably attached emotionally to different groups and different land.

Halo effect[edit]

Main article: Halo effect

Halo effect is when an observer's overall impression of a person, organization, brand, or product influences their feelings about that entity's character or properties.[36][37][38] The halo effect is a specific type of confirmation bias, wherein positive sentiments in one area cause questionable or impartial characteristics to be seen positively. The halo effect works in negative directions, sometimes known as the horns effect. So that, if the observer likes one aspect of something, they will have a positive predisposition toward everything about it. If the observer dislikes one aspect of something, they will have a negative predisposition toward everything about it.[39][40][41][42] A person’s appearance has been found to produce a halo effect.[43] The halo effect is also present in the field of brand marketing, affecting perception of companies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).[44][45][46][47][48][49][50]

Self-serving bias[edit]

Main article: Self-serving bias

Self-serving bias is the tendency for cognitive or perceptual processes to be distorted by the individual's need to maintain and enhance self-esteem.[51] It is the propensity to credit accomplishment to our own capacities and endeavors, yet attribute failure to outside factors,[52] to dismiss the legitimacy of negative criticism, concentrate on positive qualities and accomplishments yet disregard flaws and failures. Studies have demonstrated that this bias can affect behavior in the workplace,[53] in interpersonal relationships,[54] playing sports,[55] and in consumer decisions.[56]

Conflicts of interest[edit]

Main article: Conflict of interest

A conflict of interest (COI) is when a person or association has intersecting interests (financial, personal, etcetera) which could potentially corrupt. The potential conflict is autonomous of actual improper actions, it can be found and intentionally defused before corruption, or the appearance of corruption, happens. "A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgement or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest."[57] It exists if the circumstances are sensibly accepted to present a hazard that choices made may be unduly impacted by auxiliary interests.[58]


Main article: Bribery

Bribery is the giving of money, goods or other forms of recompense to in order to influence the recipient's behavior.[59] Bribes can include money (including tips), goods, rights in action, property, privilege, emolument, gifts, perks, skimming, return favors, discounts, sweetheart deals, kickbacks, funding, donations, campaign contributions, sponsorships, stock options, secret commissions, or promotions.[60] Expectations of when a monetary transaction is appropriate can differ from place to place. Political campaign contributions in the form of cash are considered criminal acts of bribery in some countries, while in the United States they are legal provided they adhere to election law. Tipping, is considered bribery in some societies, but not others.


Main article: In-group favoritism

Favoritism, sometimes known as in-group favoritism, or in-group bias, refers to a pattern of favoring members of one's in-group over out-group members. This can be expressed in evaluation of others, in allocation of resources, and in many other ways.[61][62] This has been researched by psychologists, especially social psychologists, and linked to group conflict and prejudice. Cronyism is favoritism of long-standing friends, especially by appointing them to positions of authority, regardless of their qualifications.[63] Nepotism is favoritism granted to relatives.[64][65][66][67]

Funding bias[edit]

Main article: Funding bias

Funding bias refers to the tendency of a scientific study to support the interests of the study's financial sponsor. This phenomenon is recognized sufficiently that researchers undertake studies to examine bias in past published studies.[68] It can be caused by any or all of: a conscious or subconscious sense of obligation of researchers towards their employers,[69] misconduct or malpractice,[70] publication bias,[70][71][72][73] or reporting bias.[74]

Insider trading[edit]

Main article: Insider trading

Insider trading is the trading of a public company's stock or other securities (such as bonds or stock options) by individuals with access to non-public information about the company. In various countries, trading based on insider information is illegal because it is seen as unfair to other investors who do not have access to the information as the investor with insider information could potentially make far larger profits that a typical investor could not make. Some claim that illegal insider trading raises the cost of capital for securities issuers, thus decreasing overall economic growth,[75] others have argued that insider trading should be allowed and could, in fact, benefit markets.[76]


Box offered by the tobacco lobbyists to Kartika Liotard in September 2013
Main article: Lobbying

Lobbying is the attempt to impact choices made by administrators, frequently lawmakers or individuals from administrative agencies.[77][78][79] Lobbyists may be among a legislator's constituencies, or not; they may engage in lobbying as a business, or not. Lobbying is often spoken of with contempt, the implication is that people with inordinate socioeconomic power are corrupting the law in order to serve their own interests. When people who have a duty to act on behalf of others, such as elected officials with a duty to serve their constituents' interests or more broadly the common good, stand to benefit by shaping the law to serve the interests of some private parties, there is a conflict of interest. This can lead to all sides in a debate looking to sway the issue by means of lobbyists.

Match fixing[edit]

Main articles: Match fixing and Spot-fixing

In organized sports, match fixing occurs when a match is played to a completely or partially pre-determined result, violating the rules of the game and often the law.[80] There is a variety of reasons for this, but the most common is in exchange for a payoff from gamblers. Players might also intentionally perform poorly to get an advantage in the future (such as a better draft pick, or an easier opponent in a playoff), or to rig a handicap system. Match-fixing generally refers to fixing the final result of the game. Another form of match-fixing, known as spot-fixing, involves fixing small events within a match which can be gambled upon, but which are unlikely to prove decisive in determining the final result of the game.

Regulatory issues[edit]

Self-regulation is the process whereby an organization monitors its own adherence to legal, ethical, or safety standards, rather than have an outside, independent agency such as a third party entity monitor and enforce those standards.[81] Self-regulation of any group can create a conflict of interest. If any organization, such as a corporation or government bureaucracy, is asked to eliminate unethical behavior within their own group, it may be in their interest in the short run to eliminate the appearance of unethical behavior, rather than the behavior itself.

Regulatory capture is a form of political corruption that can occur when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.[82][83] Regulatory capture occurs because groups or individuals with a high-stakes interest in the outcome of policy or regulatory decisions can be expected to focus their resources and energies in attempting to gain the policy outcomes they prefer, while members of the public, each with only a tiny individual stake in the outcome, will ignore it altogether.[84] Regulatory capture is a risk to which a regulatory agency is exposed by its very nature.[85][86]


Main article: Shill

Shilling is deliberately giving spectators the feeling that one is an energetic autonomous client of a vendor for whom one is working. The effectiveness of shilling relies on crowd psychology to encourage other onlookers or audience members to purchase the goods or services (or accept the ideas being marketed). Shilling is illegal in some places, but legal in others.[87] An example of shilling is paid reviews that give the impression of being autonomous opinions.

Statistical biases[edit]

Main article: Bias (statistics)

A statistical bias is a method of calculating a statistic which produces a consistent error.

Contextual biases[edit]

Academic bias[edit]

Main article: Academic bias

Academic bias is the bias or perceived bias of scholars allowing their beliefs to shape their research and the scientific community. Claims of bias are often linked to claims by conservatives of pervasive bias against political conservatives and religious Christians.[88] Some have argued that these claims are based upon anecdotal evidence which would not reliably indicate systematic bias,[89][90][91] and have suggested that this divide is due to self-selection of conservatives choosing not to pursue academic careers.[89][92] There is some evidence that perception of classroom bias may be rooted in issues of sexuality, race, class and sex as much or more than in religion.[93]

Educational bias[edit]

Main article: Bias in education

Bias in education refers to real or perceived bias in the educational system. The content of school textbooks is often the issue of debate, as their target audience is young people, and the term "whitewashing" is used to refer to selective removal of critical or damaging evidence or comment.[94][95][96] Religious bias in textbooks is observed in countries where religion plays a dominant role. There can be many forms of educational bias. Some overlooked aspects, occurring especially with the pedagogical circles of public and private schools—sources that are unrelated to fiduciary or mercantile impoverishment which may be unduly magnified—include teacher bias as well as a general bias against women who are going into STEM research.[97][98]

Experimenter bias[edit]

Main article: Experimenter's bias

In science research, experimenter bias occurs when experimenter expectancies regarding study results bias the research outcome.[99] Examples of experimenter bias include conscious or unconscious influences on subject behavior including creation of demand characteristics that influence subjects, and altered or selective recording of experimental results themselves.[100]

Full text on net bias[edit]

Full text on net (or FUTON) bias is a tendency of scholars to cite academic journals with open access—that is, journals that make their full text available on the internet without charge—in their own writing as compared with toll access publications. Scholars can more easily discover and access articles that have their full text on the internet, which increases authors' likelihood of reading, quoting, and citing these articles, this may increase the impact factor of open access journals relative to journals without open access.[101][102][103][104][105][106]

The related bias, no abstract available bias (NAA bias) is scholars' tendency to cite journal articles that have an abstract available online more readily than articles that do not.[101][106]

Inductive bias[edit]

Main article: Inductive bias

Inductive bias occurs within the field of machine learning. In machine learning one seeks to develop algorithms that are able to learn to anticipate a particular output. To accomplish this, the learning algorithm is given training cases that show the expected connection. Then the learner is tested with new examples. Without further assumptions, this problem cannot be solved exactly as unknown situations may not be predictable.[107][108] The inductive bias of the learning algorithm is the set of assumptions that the learner uses to predict outputs given inputs that it has not encountered.[107] It may bias the learner towards the correct solution, the incorrect, or be correct some of the time. A classical example of an inductive bias is Occam's Razor, which assumes that the simplest consistent hypothesis is the best.

Media bias[edit]

Main article: Media bias

Media bias is the bias or perceived bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media in the selection of events, the stories that are reported, and how they are covered. The term generally implies a pervasive or widespread bias violating the standards of journalism, rather than the perspective of an individual journalist or article. There are varied forms of media bias, including agenda-setting, gatekeeping, sensationalism, and others.[109] The level of media bias in different nations is debated. There are also watchdog groups that report on media bias.

Practical limitations to media neutrality include the inability of journalists to report all available stories and facts, the requirement that selected facts be linked into a coherent narrative, government influence including overt and covert censorship,[110] the influence of the owners of the news source, concentration of media ownership, the selection of staff, the preferences of an intended audience, and pressure from advertisers.

Bias has been a feature of the mass media since its birth with the invention of the printing press. The expense of early printing equipment restricted media production to a limited number of people. Historians have found that publishers often served the interests of powerful social groups.[111]

Publication bias[edit]

Main article: Publication bias

Publication bias is a type of bias with regard to what academic research is likely to be published because of a tendency of researchers, and journal editors, to prefer some outcomes rather than others e.g. results showing a significant finding, leads to a problematic bias in the published literature.[112] This can propagate further as literature reviews of claims about support for a hypothesis will themselves be biased if the original literature is contaminated by publication bias.[113] Studies with significant results often do not appear to be superior to studies with a null result with respect to quality of design.[114] However, statistically significant results have been shown to be three times more likely to be published compared to papers with null results.[115]

Reporting bias & social desirability bias[edit]

In epidemiology and empirical research, reporting bias is defined as "selective revealing or suppression of information" of undesirable behavior by subjects[116] or researchers. [117][118] It refers to a tendency to under-report unexpected or undesirable experimental results, while being more trusting of expected or desirable results. This can propagate, as each instance reinforces the status quo, and later experimenters justify their own reporting bias by observing that previous experimenters reported different results.

Social desirability bias is a bias within social science research where survey respondents can tend to answer questions in a manner that will be viewed positively by others.[119] It can take the form of over-reporting laudable behavior, or under-reporting undesirable behavior. This bias interferes with the interpretation of average tendencies as well as individual differences. The inclination represents a major issue with self-report questionnaires; of special concern are self-reports of abilities, personalities, sexual behavior, and drug use.[119]


Main articles: Bigotry, Prejudice and Cultural bias

Bias and prejudice are usually considered to be closely related.[2] Prejudice is prejudgment, or forming an opinion before becoming aware of the relevant facts of a case. The word is often used to refer to preconceived, usually unfavorable, judgments toward people or a person because of gender, political opinion, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, race/ethnicity, language, nationality, or other personal characteristics. Prejudice can also refer to unfounded beliefs[120] and may include "any unreasonable attitude that is unusually resistant to rational influence".[121]


Main article: Class discrimination

Classism is discrimination on the basis of social class. It includes attitudes that benefit the upper class at the expense of the lower class, or vice versa.[122]


Main article: Lookism

Lookism is stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination on the basis of physical attractiveness, or more generally to people whose appearance matches cultural preferences.[123][124][125] Many people make automatic judgments of others based on their physical appearance that influence how they respond to those people.[126][127]


Main article: Racism

Racism consists of ideologies based on a desire to dominate or a belief in the inferiority of another race.[128][129] It may also hold that members of different races should be treated differently.[130][131][132]


Main article: Sexism

Sexism is discrimination based on a person's sex or gender. Sexism can affect any gender, but it is particularly documented as affecting women and girls.[133] It has been linked to stereotypes and gender roles,[134][135] and may include the belief that one sex or gender is intrinsically superior to another.[136]

See also[edit]


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    • "Sexism". Encyclopedia Britannica, Online Academic Edition. 2015.  Defines sexism as "prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender, especially against women and girls." Notes that "sexism in a society is most commonly applied against women and girls. It functions to maintain patriarchy, or male domination, through ideological and material practices of individuals, collectives, and institutions that oppress women and girls on the basis of sex or gender."
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    • Foster, Carly Hayden (2011). "Sexism". In Kurlan, George Thomas. The Encyclopedia of Political Science. CQ Press. ISBN 9781608712434.  Notes that "both men and women can experience sexism, but sexism against women is more pervasive."
    • Johnson, Allan G. (2000). "Sexism". The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology. Blackwell.  Suggests that "the key test of whether something is sexist... lies in its consequences: if it supports male privilege, then it is by definition sexist. I specify 'male privilege' because in every known society where gender inequality exists, males are privileged over females."
    • Lorber, Judith (2011). Gender Inequality: Feminist Theories and Politics. Oxford University Press. p. 5.  Notes that "although we speak of gender inequality, it is usually women who are disadvantaged relative to similarly situated men."
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