Did you know that there’s just no room in a negative bias for positive data? A negative bias effectively undermines wholesome relationships and balanced decision making by distorting reality and resisting any corrective. The one with a negative bias will always go out of their way to legitimate the bias by automatically sifting out anything that would prove it to be wrong, making it impossible for them to come to see differently.
The unfortunate fact about any bias, the thing that makes it so incorrigible, is that the person holding it isn’t aware of all the sifting they are doing. Someone with a my-spouse-doesn’t-love-me-anymore bias, for example, will automatically sift out all evidence to the contrary while noticing and remembering everything that supports the bias. If the spouse is late for dinner without phoning, this is seen by the bias-holder as evidence of lack of love, whereas the fact that the spouse made breakfast last Saturday without being asked is totally forgotten. Or, if it’s remembered, it is chalked up to a guilty conscience, because any fact can only be interpreted in light of the negative bias.
This sort of habit of thinking is just what prevented the Pharisees from seeing Jesus as the promised Messiah. Their bias that “he can’t be, he’s only an ordinary man” was reinforced by pointing to his association with sinners (tax collectors and such) and his seeming disregard for rules, while ignoring his beyond-belief miracles and God-honouring teaching. Their bias made it impossible for them to understand all these things as evidence of the radical, powerful love of God who had sent Jesus.
We may think, “I would never be like that.” But this assumption bears some scrutiny. Why not ask yourself, “Do I have a negative bias about my boss, a colleague at work, my spouse, the government, politicians, business people, or (God forbid) God? Am I automatically and unwittingly sifting out any good they may be doing?” An unrecognized negative bias will cause big problems in the lives of those so afflicted. One that is acknowledged under careful self-examination, however, can be addressed so that it doesn’t wreak havoc with your life.