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Be a Bias Buster!

Bias Defined:

  • See the definition of bias from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online: Bias

  • Explore different kinds of cognitive biases:  List of Cognitive Biases

Questions to ask about the source (book, website, magazine, journal, or newspaper):

  • What is the purpose of the source? (Does it inform, persuade, present opinions, report research, or sell a product?

  • Who is the publisher of the source? (Is it an organization, association, or company?)

  • Who is the intended audience of the source? (Is it for the general population or for a select group of people?)

  • Where is it published? (Is it local, regional, national, or international?)

Questions to ask about a specific article or landing website:

  • Who is the author? (Is an author identified? Are any credentials listed? Is the author qualified to speak on this topic? What other topics has the author written about? Does the author belong to a partisan organization that may influence point of view?)

  • What is the purpose of the article? (Is it a review, commentary, editorial, informative article, research article, etc.?)

  • What kind of supporting material is offered? (Does the author quote research studies, statistics, or use personal anecdotes or experiences? Is logic applied when drawing conclusions? Are deceptive arguments used?)

  • What kind of language is used in the article? (Are inflammatory, loaded, or emotionally-charged words used?)

Additional links that help us think about bias:

Activity: Identify Audience and Potential Bias

Each group will be provided sample issues of a popular magazine (Christianity Today, Ms., The Advocate, Parents, etc.)

  • Compare the covers of your various sample issues.  Can you guess at the intended audience from the illustrations and headlines?
  • Flip to the table of contents. What general topics are addressed in your sample issues?
  • Examine any advertisements.  Can you think of attributes associated with the products featured in the ads?
  • Skim through a couple articles.  Do you pick up on any clues to bias?

Report back to the class:

  • Who is the intended audience for this publication?
  • Why did you draw this conclusion?  Any specific clues?
  • List a handful of topics that may be presented in a biased way based on the audience?

Activity: Sample Magazine Covers

Let's examine a few sample magazine covers and look for visual clues for bias:

Ms. Magazine

Christianity Today

New American