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Science & Tech

Understanding Cultural Bias: 3 Examples of Cultural Bias

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 9, 2020 • 1 min read

The ability to identify the various biases in our lives is the first step to understanding how our mental processes work. In science specifically, researchers try to identify bias that they knowingly or unknowingly possess in order to have the clearest results and data possible.

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What Is Cultural Bias?

Cultural bias is the interpretation of situations, actions, or data based on the standards of one's own culture. Cultural biases are grounded in the assumptions one might have due to the culture in which they are raised. Some examples of cultural influences that may lead to bias include:

  • Linguistic interpretation
  • Ethical concepts of right and wrong
  • Understanding of facts or evidence-based proof
  • Intentional or unintentional ethnic or racial bias
  • Religious beliefs or understanding
  • Sexual attraction and mating

Social scientists, like psychologists, economists, anthropologists, and sociologists, seek to identify cultural differences in their research in order to better inform their interpretation of data. For example, an economist might seek to explain disparities in life expectancy between different cultural groups or communities through the lens of the cultural biases in the healthcare system.

3 Examples of Cultural Bias

Cultural bias is pervasive in our everyday lives. Here are a few examples of cultural bias:

  1. At the workplace. Cultural biases in the hiring process may lead to less racial or cultural diversity in the workplace. Hiring managers seek to eliminate cultural biases in a number of ways, including hiding names or pictures from resumes (making them anonymous) and using diverse interview panels.
  2. In public. Some cultures perceive certain hand gestures or prolonged eye contact as a sign of disrespect, whereas other cultures may assume that those who do not shake hands or look into someone’s eyes are being rude or evasive. The assumption that one set of norms is correct may lead to cultural bias when interacting with people from a different culture.
  3. At school. In the United States specifically, cultural bias in schooling might lead educators to assume that all students have had the same education, and thus can be judged by the same educational standards (like with standardized testing). This type of bias does not take into account other factors like poverty, accessibility, or language ability.
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