Bias Few Things in the Human Environment Written Answers

Pages: 6 (2004 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy


Few things in the human environment are not subject to bias. In the decision-making process, bias is necessarily part an parcel of the final decision. This is why important, large-scale decisions are seldom handled by a single person. Many perspectives are required to make sound decisions on a major scale. This is best achieved by means of a team of decision-makers. Sound decision-making is particularly important where the safety and security of the country is at stake, for the obvious reason of preserving and/or saving millions of lives. Strategic foresight and warning professionals can therefore not afford to let bias cloud their judgment to the detriment of sound decision-making. The reality however is that bias can occur on both an individual and group level. While it is more likely to detrimentally affect individual judgment, the phenomenon known as "groupthink" can involve a dangerous type of bias to even affect the judgment of multiple parties.

Although bias is often so subtle that it is difficult to identify, there are ways in which to counter it for both individuals and groups. Critical thinking is the most important faculty that both individuals and groups can use to counteract bias. Critical thinking allows the individual and the collective to identify possible flaws in various decision scenarios.



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In the strategic foresight and warning field, bias can occur in a variety of forms. Bias means that an individual or group favor one solution over another for reasons other than those obtained by means of critical, rational thinking. Bias can result from a personal viewpoint favoring a specific solution, from prejudice against certain phenomena or things, or simply from a lack of time or energy to investigate all possibilities. In a group setting, bias can be the result of long-term relationships among group members, where a decision strategy was created at the first meeting, but never revised subsequently. Decisions or strategies that are out of date could then for example result in faulty decision-making, as these never evolved to adapt to the changing decision-making and planning environment.

PhD Model Answer on Bias Few Things in the Human Environment Assignment

Several forms of bias can be identified. Specifically, ten of the most important include: 1) selective search for evidence; 2) premature termination of search for evidence; 3) inertia; 4) wishful thinking or optimism; 5) choice-supportive bias; 6) repetition bias; 7) anchoring and adjustment; 8) group think; 9) role fulfillment; and 10) underestimating uncertainty. These types of bias can specifically influence the processes involved in strategic foresight and warning.



Krishnadas (2005: 21) suggests that three models of cognitive rigidity can be said to generally plague the strategic decision-making field. The first is cognitive rigidity that originates from the adoption of abstract assumptions. The second model, or Model B, as identified by Krishnadas, is concerned with cognitive rigidity resulting from learned historical experience. Model C. involves cognitive rigidity as a result of operational routine.

Kung (1970: 176) addresses the concept of paradigms, as it relates to group think on a wide scale. A paradigm can be defined as an accepted viewpoint or thought pattern according to which decisions are made or research is conducted. The danger connected with paradigms is that they could lead to cognitive rigidity, as mentioned above. The problem is then that accepted paradigms have become so integrated in the community's collective thinking processes that they cause inertia and a lack of adjustment in the research and decision-making process. The inherent danger here is then that crucial changes in the information environment are not included in key decisions, and the general safety and security of the country is at risk. Paradigms therefore do serve an important purpose in terms of structure, but should be included only as part of the decision process, with the elements of critical thinking and cognitive planning forming major parts of the general process.

Mietzner and Reger (2005: 221) consider the specific example of scenario planning as a form of cognitive rigidity and anchoring bias. According to the authors, scenario planning was first implemented in the intelligence setting after World War II. The Department of Defense adopted the scenario model for clarifying ideas about the future at an institutional level during the 1950s. During the 1960s, scenarios also became part of the business environment. The inherent danger is that crucial eventualities may not be prepared for.

Scenarios are however also a good way to focus and plan for all known possibilities. Like paradigms, they provide a springboard for operations to ensure that adequate systems are in place to mitigate the known factors that might lead to war. Systems should also however be in place to ensure that all possible forms of bias are minimized in the planning process.

Good examples of planning for the future via scenarios and other strategies include Singapore and Switzerland. Habegger (2009: 2) for example note that, while strategic foresight at the state level has been limited to individual issues until recently, states have begun to also recognize it as an important element within policymaking.

When Singapore found itself surprised by events that threatened national security at the beginning of the century, including the terrorist attacks on major powers such as the United States and United Kingdom, as well as the outbreak of the SARS epidemic. This brought home the lack of adequate foresight strategies in Singapore. A thorough investigation resulted in a new strategy, published in 2004, based on a more integrated, networked, and coordinated approach to managing security challenges. This included a unit that specifically focused on identifying and assessing risk at an early stage. This approach extends beyond the scenario approach, in that it accounts for eventualities that cannot be foreseen.

Habegger (2009: 3) suggests that Switzerland can learn from such an integrated approach. While the country does have federal authorities to monitor trends and developments in several areas of political influence, these are not coordinated at a strategic level. Hence, the Federal Council is not optimally capable to act should a security threat occur.

Currently, Switzerland has two projects that could form the basis of greater coordination. One of these is the "Risiken Schweiz" project, that uses a comprehensive risk catalog and baseline scenarios to conduct a vulnerability assessment for the whole nation. The second is also based upon possible scenarios created by the federal administration's forward planning staff. The risk assessment is presented in a quadrennial report on possible trends and developments in federal policymaking. The author's suggestion is that these planning strategies occur on an integrated level throughout the country's political regime.



Switzer (p. 2) offers six steps to optimize strategic foresight in the planning process, so that bias can be either limited or eliminated altogether. These steps include: framing; scanning; forecasting; visioning; planning; an acting.

The first step, framing, means to identify the issues where focus is most appropriately placed. This means that all potential issues should be considered critically while identifying only those with the greatest importance. Switzer's second step, scanning, involves an internal and external investigation to determine environmental factors that may impact upon the issues identified in the first step. Thirdly, Switzer mentions forecasting as a step that creates alternative futures, much like creating scenarios, as mentioned above. The scenario planning method provides for three types of futures: possible, probable, and preferred. In defense planning, the estimate of these futures depend greatly upon the specific environment involved and the capabilities of the planning institution. The fifth step, planning, involves arriving at a strategy to bridge the gap between the current state of affairs and the desired outcome identified. Finally, acting involves the implementation of these plans, with a communication process to inform all parties involved of the actions that they need to take for the desired outcome. This stage should include an evaluation process to determine the effectiveness of the planning stage, with adjustments made to ensure the adequacy of the process.


A very important means of eliminating detrimental bias in the foresight ad warning environment is critical thinking and action, as suggested by Edmund. Critical thinking is the main human faculty that, if implemented correctly, can eliminate detrimental bias from the planning process.

As an example, the authors mention Japan, where the income per capita grew at an annual rate of 5.8% from 1960 to 1985. This brought a fear to many U.S. economists that Japan would soon lead the world in economic competition. However, a weak signal that had been overlooked in this regard was the growth and development of information technology in the United States, and specifically the growth of Silicon Valley, which would soon become the heart of the American industry. Weak signals are therefore important in terms of policymaking not only in terms of negative and destructive trends, but also in terms of positive ones that promote growth.



According to Conway (2005:5), many assumptions about strategy development do not take into account the complexity of the issues involved. Most importantly, such development cannot occur… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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