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How To Reduce Bias In Psychological Research

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Understanding Bias In Psychological Assessment

Reducing Bias in Assessment

Few issues in psychological assessment today are as polarizing among clinicians and laypeople as the use of standardized tests with minority examinees. For clients, parents, and clinicians, the central issue is one of long-term consequences that may occur when mean test results differ from one ethnic group to anotherâBlacks, Hispanics, American Indians, Asian Americans, and so forth. Important concerns include, among others, that psychiatric clients may be overdiagnosed, students disproportionately placed in special classes, and applicants unfairly denied employment or college admission because of purported bias in standardized tests.

Among researchers, polarization also is common. Here, too, observed mean score differences among ethnic groups are fueling the controversy, but in a different way. Alternative explanations of these differences seem to give shape to the conflict. Reynolds divided the most common explanations into four categories: genetic influences environmental factors involving economic, social, and educational deprivation an interactive effect of genes and environment and biased tests that systematically underrepresent minorities’ true aptitudes or abilities. The last two of these explanations have drawn the most attention. Williams and Helms proposed a fifth interpretation of differences between Black and White examinees: The two groups have qualitatively different cognitive structures, which must be measured using different methods .

  • Construct bias

  • Social Values And Beliefs

    The present-day conflict over bias in standardized tests is motivated largely by public concerns. The impetus, it may be argued, lies with beliefs fundamental to democracy in the United States. Most Americans, at least those of majority ethnicity, view the United States as a land of opportunity. Historically, this has meant that equal opportunity is extended to every person.

    We want to believe that any child can grow up to be president. Concomitantly, we believe that everyone is created equal, that all people harbor the potential for success and achievement. This equality of opportunity seems most reasonable if everyone is equally able to take advantage of it. Concerns have arisen given debates among scholars as to whether intelligence is a fixed trait or whether intelligence is malleable .

    Whats The Bias The Halo Effect

    When we like someone, we often overlook their misgivings or faults, tending to see the best in them. This applies not only to people, but to our perceived experiences with many things in life. If we want to measure an individuals thoughts about something, we can anticipate that if they have a positive opinion about it, they will also have a positive opinion about the things that are associated with it.

    This bias also works in the opposite direction the reverse halo effect means that an individual can react badly to something if its already associated with a negatively perceived person, or thing. This can occur even if an individual would have a neutral, or even positive, opinion about the subject in question if it was associated with something or someone else.

    Both of these biases are examples of cognitive carryover effects , and they can have a huge effect on on how we perceive the world.

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    Bias In Data Interpretation

    However, wishful thinking is not rare in scientific research. Some researchers tend to believe so much in their original hypotheses that they tend to neglect the original findings and interpret them in favor of their beliefs. Examples are:

    • discussing observed differences and associations even if they are not statistically significant
    • discussing differences which are statistically significant but are not clinically meaningful
    • drawing conclusions about the causality, even if the study was not designed as an experiment
    • drawing conclusions about the values outside the range of observed data
    • overgeneralization of the study conclusions to the entire general population, even if a study was confined to the population subset
    • Type I and type II errors .

    Even if this is done as an honest error or due to the negligence, it is still considered a serious misconduct.

    Share Analytical Duties With The Team

    5 Cognitive Biases That Threaten Decision

    Consider having multiple people on a research team evaluate data before you write about it on your own in a report. If different people can produce the same or very similar interpretations, you can learn whether your study plan was effective in avoiding the possibility of bias. You can also discuss any differing interpretations with your team to reassess your assumptions and better determine a point of view that shows the most objectivity overall.

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    Recognizing And Overcoming Our Biases

    Unfortunately, were not that good at knowing our own biases. In fact, research has suggested that the more help you need in this area, the harder it is to recognize that you need help. People underestimate their own bias, and the most biased among us underestimate it the most.

    So, one step is to check yourself through some unbiased means. One method that researchers at the University of Washington, University of Virginia, Harvard University, and Yale University have used is the Implicit Association Test, which is freely available to everyone. Fair warning, though: you might not be comfortable or agree with the results, but thats probably just your bias talking.

    Next, give yourself permission to be human and recognize the limits of your own understanding. Just being aware of your biases will not, in and of itself, enable you to overcome your biases. This doesnt mean that we should ignore our biases or give into them. Instead, we need to set up systems, processes, procedures, and even technology, that enable us to make better decisions. Ask for help. Get feedback from others. Set firm criteria and be consistent. Most of all, keep an open mind.

    Translation And Cultural Testing

    The findings already reviewed do not apply to translations of tests. Use of a test in a new linguistic culture requires that it be redeveloped from the start. One reason for the early success of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale was that Terman reconceptualized it for the United States, reexamining Binet’s theory of intelligence, writing and testing new items, and renorming the scales .

    Terman’s work was an exception to a rule of simple translation of the Binet Scales. Even today, few researchers are experienced in procedures for adapting tests and establishing score equivalence. Nonetheless, the procedures are available, and they increase the validity of the adapted tests . Adaptation of educational and psychological tests most frequently occurs for one of three reasons: to facilitate comparative ethnic studies, to allow individuals to be tested in their own language, or to reduce the time and cost of developing new tests.

    Three statistical designs are available, depending on the characteristics of the sample. In the bilingual examinees design, participants who take both the original and the target version of the test are bilingual . In the source and target language monolinguals design, monolinguals in the original language take the original or back-translated version, and monolinguals in the target language take the target version . In the third design, monolinguals in the original language take the original and back-translated versions.

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    Quite Literally Play A Role

    Playing a role means to create a character or persona for your interview that you adopt and embody for its duration.

    It is, in short, to be an actor on a very small and intimate stage, wherein your goal is not to make the audience laugh or cry, but instead to allow them to be entirely and completely who they are and experience how they feel about things without your interruption or interference.

    Now, this character could be designed in your current self image, or reflect what you feel to be your best properties. But we find it works best when you can use the first act , to identify your biases and then act the part of someone who has no such biases.

    Now many of you may think, I do that anyway! And if so, thats great! I would hope so.

    I want to emphasise it here because in our evaluation of investigative conversations between mentors and subjects weve seen that making the conscious decision to play a role often means avoiding the compulsion to represent your own truth . It also means you dont feel like youre lying because you are playing a role for someone elses benefit, not yours.

    The trick in this work is not to lie about who you are, but to not let who you are prevent someone else from representing their truth. So making the conscious decision to play that role allows you to put aside your instincts and feelings and be fully present for your interviewee.

    Faulty Data Collection Procedure

    Effective Intergroup Bias Reduction: A Research Contest for Reducing Implicit Prejudice

    Watch out for unreliable answers to the questions that you posed. It is possible that the following occurred during the data collection:

  • respondents are agitated, so they answered quickly without pondering the questions
  • you asked leading questions or questions that make people choose because you mentioned the choice
  • you answered the questionnaire for your Respondent because of your impatience in waiting for the response
  • the questions are not stated clearly
  • the Respondent has no experience on the subject you are asking about
  • other parties were present at the time of the interview that influenced Respondents ideas or thoughts
  • the questions are too long such that the Respondent gets tired of having to respond to those questions
  • respondents fear that their answers may incriminate them
  • Suggested Solutions:

  • make sure that the respondents are ready and willing to be interviewed
  • dont provide the choices to the respondents in personal interviews
  • be patient in administering questionnaires
  • ensure that the questions are clear enough
  • evaluate the capability of the respondent in answering the questions
  • conduct personal interviews in places, not within the hearing distance of others
  • prepare questionnaires that will be finished in a reasonable amount of time
  • explain to your respondent that their answers will not be held against them
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    Tips For Identifyingand Avoidingcognitive Bias During A Crisis

    When facing the unknown, you might not even know everything you think you know.

    Editors note: This article is a re-run as part of our countdown of top stories from the past year.

    Were in the midst of a public health emergency, a slow-moving economic disaster and a period of major social upheaval. These are ideal conditions for cognitive bias to take root. When we are stressed, our attention is distracted, emotions run high, the dangers of cognitive bias are elevated, and strategic thinking and decision making are often impaired.

    Its important for leaders to recognize their biases and take steps to minimize or eliminate them, individually and across their teams. Its also important in internal and external communications to recognize that cognitive bias may also be interfering with your ability to communicate with your target audiences.

    Here are five ways to mitigate and avoid cognitive bias in times of crisis:

    1. Research and test your messages.

    At the heart of every good communications strategy and crisis plan is a messaging platform. Key messages are used to help drive the beliefs, motivations and behaviors of an organizations target audiences and stakeholders.

    The framing bias could be used to set context in your messaging. For example, emphasizing a huge potential number upfront for buying a product or describing an infection rate makes the subsequently shared actual price or infection rate seem smaller. The reverse is of course true as well.

    How To Identify & Recognise Interviewer Bias In Yourself

    The first step in identifying interviewer bias in yourself is accepting that you have interviewer bias at all.

    To be able to work with your interviewer bias, youll need to fast track through the 5 stages of grief: through denial and anger, past depression and bargaining, and right to the end: Acceptance.

    If you can accept that you yourself are agist, racist, gender biased, homo/hetero-phobic and have any other worldy combination of socially biased perspectives then you have a good platform to build from.

    The sad part of this world is that we all have these biases, we all use stereotypes and generalisations to try and understand, judge or empathise with people when we interact with them. But if we dont accept that we might have these, either through ignorance or claiming to stand above them, we are most prone to suggestions and actions that are in the best case a mild bias, or in the worst case racist or bigoted.

    As an interviewer, and particularly a researcher, your role is to ask questions and listen to your interviewees without judgement something that you have to accept is nigh on impossible before you can learn to work with it.

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    I Definition And Scope Of Bias

    Bias is defined as any tendency which prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question 6. In research, bias occurs when âsystematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over othersâ7. Bias can occur at any phase of research, including study design or data collection, as well as in the process of data analysis and publication . Bias is not a dichotomous variable. Interpretation of bias cannot be limited to a simple inquisition: is bias present or not? Instead, reviewers of the literature must consider the degree to which bias was prevented by proper study design and implementation. As some degree of bias is nearly always present in a published study, readers must also consider how bias might influence a study’s conclusions 8. Table 1 provides a summary of different types of bias, when they occur, and how they might be avoided.

    Major Sources of Bias in Clinical Research

    The Issues In Qualitative Research

    Bias in health research

    Recently, I discussed the problem of bias with a researcher friend.

    âI heard that research bias is a bigger problem for qualitative research than quantitative research.â

    âWhy is that?â

    âQualitative research relies more on the experience and judgment of the researcher. Also, the type of data collected is subjective and unique to the person or situation. So it is much harder to avoid bias than in quantitative research.â

    âAre there ways to avoid bias?â

    âA good start is to recognize that bias exists in all research. We can then try to predict what type of bias we might have in our study, and try to avoid it as much as possible.â

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    Iii Bias During The Clinical Trial

    Information bias is a blanket classification of error in which bias occurs in the measurement of an exposure or outcome. Thus, the information obtained and recorded from patients in different study groups is unequal in some way 18. Many subtypes of information bias can occur, including interviewer bias, chronology bias, recall bias, patient loss to follow-up, bias from misclassification of patients, and performance bias.

    Interviewer Bias In User Research & Steps To Conquer It

    19th November 2019

    Context is powerful. If youve lined up an interview with someone because they match a set of selected criteria, youve already made the decision that, on some level, you know that person.

    Whether its for research, journalism or a job interview, that pretext is the lens and construct through which youve chosen to understand and empathise with that person. Interview bias is that lens, and everyone has it.

    But even without a context for a discussion, or a strong ability to put bias aside when starting an interview a first impression will do most of the work on its own.

    In truth, just by speaking to someone you are already fighting an uphill battle against bias within seconds of starting the conversation. Bias that you as a researcher cant afford. Bias that as a journalist might diminish the truth in your article. Or bias that as a manager could cause an imbalance in the workplace.

    In this article Im going to talk about interviewer bias in both its technical and non-technical forms as well as tactics for professional interviewerrs to circumvent some of the damage that their own bias could be causing.

    If youre new to conducting interviews, make sure to check out our email short course on how to conduct great qualitative interviews of any type!

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    How To Avoid Research Bias

  • Gather data from multiple sources: Be sure to collect data samples from the different groups in your research population.
  • Verify your data: Before going ahead with the data analysis, try to check in with other data sources, and confirm if you are on the right track.
  • If possible, ask research participants to help you review your findings: Ask the people who provided the data whether your interpretations seem to be representative of their beliefs.
  • Check for alternative explanations: Try to identify and account for alternative reasons why you may have collected data samples the way you did.
  • Ask other members of your team to review your results: Ask others to review your conclusions. This will help you see things that you missed or identify gaps in your argument that need to be addressed.
  • What Is Observational Research

    Techniques for random sampling and avoiding bias | Study design | AP Statistics | Khan Academy

    In observational studies, you often record behaviors or take measurements from participants without trying to influence the outcomes or the situation. Observational studies are used in many research fields, including medicine, psychology, behavioral science, and ethnography.

    Observer bias can occur regardless of whether you use qualitative or quantitative research methods.

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    The Impact Of Cognitive Bias Examples

    Confirmation Bias

    Confirmation bias can effect the way that people interpret statistics. People have a tendency to infer information from statistics that support their existing beliefs, even when the data supports an opposing view. That makes confirmation bias a potentially serious problem to overcome when you need to make a statistics-based decision.

    For example, your latest social media engagement report shows that you had more “dislikes” on your new videos this month. You infer this to mean that your audience did not like the new presenters, just as you expected, and you decide not to work with them again.

    But, if you look at the full report, youll see that the number of likes also increased, and that you had more views than in previous months. Taking all of the statistics into account suggests that this months videos were largely successful.


    Anchors often affect decision making when it comes to purchasing a product. For example, if a car salesperson starts negotiations at $10,000, you’ll likely feel you’re getting a good deal when they eventually lower the cost to $8,500, even if you know its real value is closer to $8,000. In this instance, the first figure you heard determined your valuation of the car, rather than its age and quality.

    Overconfidence Bias

    Imagine you drop your cell phone, and it stops working properly. Youve never fixed a cell phone before, but youre confident that you can do it. How hard can it be?

    Halo Effect

    Gambler’s Fallacy

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