This comprehensive list of terms and definitions will help you start your bias inquiry to better connect you with information and resources about biases.
Cognitive biases are systematic patterns of deviation from the norm. They are based on the human brain’s ability to process information and produce decisions and/or judgement.
Glossary of bias terms – From the Washington University of St. Louis, most of the definitions are based on human bias concepts.
Wikipedia bias overview – Further divides bias into cognitive, contextual, and statistical, categories.
Cultural bias definitions – Presented by the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, this resource identifies the most common human biases in a cause/effect format.
Source: "File:Cognitive Bias Codex - 180+ biases, designed by John Manoogian III (jm3).jpg." Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. 27 Oct 2020, 05:22 UTC. 8 Mar 2021, 12:21 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Cognitive_Bias_Codex_-_180%2B_biases,_designed_by_John_Manoogian_III_(jm3).jpg&oldid=503397534>.
In a time when elected public officials brazenly lie and foment rhetoric about fake news, it is more important than ever before to be able to discern truth from fiction. Amanda Taub of the New York Times writes that "the fake-news phenomenon is not the result of personal failings. And it is not limited to one end of the political spectrum. Rather, Americans’ deep bias against the political party they oppose is so strong that it acts as a kind of partisan prism for facts, refracting a different reality to Republicans than to Democrats. Partisan refraction has fueled the rise of fake news, according to researchers who study the phenomenon. But the repercussions go far beyond stories shared on Facebook and Reddit, affecting Americans’ faith in government — and the government’s ability to function." Once you are aware of the problem and know what to look for, you are no longer a part of the problem — you can be part of the solution toward building a more equitable, truth-based society.
For fact-checking, it's helpful to draw a distinction between two activities:
Most newspaper articles are not lists of facts, which means that outfits like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times do both news gathering and news analysis in stories. What has been lost in the dismissal of The New York Times as liberal and The Wall Street Journal as conservative is that these are primarily biases of the news analysis portion of what they do. To the extent the bias exists, it's in what they choose to cover, to whom they choose to talk, and what they imply in the way they arrange those facts they collect. The news gathering piece is affected by this, but in many ways largely separate, and the reputation for fact checking is largely separate as well.
Below are some resources that can help you sort through bias that you might find in the news as well as some sources that are generally considered to be politically neutral and factually accurate:
The editorial staff decides the importance of a topic by its placement in an article. A story can be "buried" by placing it in a section that is less read.
Commercial or Selection
Editors select stories that draw larger audiences of readers in order to meet sponsor demands.
Media focus on stories that emphasize fear, anger, and excitement.
Editors give follow-up and clarifying stories less prominent placement because news is expected to be current and timely.
The selection of images can skew audience perception of a story's importance and the events reported; therefore, visuals are used to attract readers' attention.
Reporting biases occur when an article is written with a particular tone or “spin” so that readers will perceive it in a certain way without applying skepticism or comparing the piece to other news outlets with a different ideology or perspective.
A bias that occurs when an article is written using the who, what, when, where, why and how rubric. However, in real life there are complexities that may not conform to those guidelines.
This bias is seen when an article factors in the diversity of story through cultural and social issues. Readers located outside of that locale may have different reactions to the same story.
A bias reflected by the way in which words take on different meanings depending on the context of use and the background/culture of the reader.
This bias can be used to understand groups and situations which are not a regular part of our lives. However, classifying and categorizing people or events can affect that way in which a story is perceived.
Source: Lora Cowell, Librarian, HUHS Library Media Center (http://libguides.huhs.org/mediabias)
With social media like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc. where you can curate the information you see, it's easy to get yourself in a media filter bubble and only see information that only reinforces your established worldview.
Companies like Google also have sophisticated algorithms to give you search results tailored to what they think you want (and because their business model is based on advertising revenue and monetizing certain keywords): if you run the same search while logged in to a Google account, while logged out, on a campus computer, on your personal computer, or on someone else's computer while they are logged in or not, etc. you may find yourself getting different results. It can still be an excellent resource (especially since you won't always have access to college/university resources and are likely to rely on web tools like this in the future for your research needs), but it's worth being aware of this. You might also use the Google Advanced Search which can add a number of useful tricks to your searches!
Here are some additional resources that dive into issues of extreme bias in conspiracy theory thinking and radicalization pipelines in mass media: