Tag Archive for bias

Survivorship Bias

The dead can’t tell their stories. Even when their accounts are documented, they are often given less credence than the accounts of survivors who still exist to share theirs. Simply put, survivorship bias is a logical fallacy in which we concentrate on the accounts of those who have made it past some criteria and overlook the accounts of those who did not. The error is compounded as conclusions are drawn that suggest that success is due to some characteristic shared by the successful instead of extraneous variables or random chance.

I most often see this bias play out in three ways:

  1. “The secret to a long life” stories
  2. “I did XYZ as a child, and I turned out fine” stories
  3. “Rags to riches” stories

Even though some of these stories may be shared with a humorous intent, there are plenty of examples where people believe that they are drawing accurate conclusions about success based on a selective review of attempts in pursuit of that success.

Read more

The Quest for the Unbiased Source

Merriam-Webster defines bias as “a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment.” We should look for media outlets that don’t do this then, right? I would argue that the presence of bias should not immediately render a media outlet as unacceptable. We, as readers, should be able to recognize bias when we see it and analyze how it may be affecting how we interpret the facts of a story. We must train our eyes to see the hallmarks of questionable journalism and avoid sources that lean too heavily on bad practices.

Enter AdFontesMedia, publisher of the Media Bias Chart, which has published version 5.0 of its interactive chart as of this writing. Their research seeks to organize media outlets in a coordinate plane based on two factors, political bias and overall source reliability. The political bias measure follows a traditional left/right continuum, and source reliability seeks to quantify the difference between straight fact reporting and the various levels of analysis and commentary that can stem from it.

Read more