3.1 Prejudice and bias
It is important to be able to recognise prejudice and bias in what you read. So what do these words mean?
Activity 12 Defining prejudice and bias
Look up the words ‘prejudice’ and ‘bias’ in a dictionary or search engine. Write the definitions in the box below.
Here are some example definitions:
- Prejudice – an opinion against a group or an individual based on insufficient facts and usually unfavourable and/or intolerant.
- Bias – very similar to but not as extreme as prejudice. Someone who is biased usually refuses to accept that there are other views than their own.
Here are two examples of prejudice and bias.
The report blames most crime in the town on teenagers, without any evidence, as the writer is prejudiced against young people.
My aunt is biased towards dogs that are black, like her own, and she is always more friendly to them than to other dogs.
Activity 13 Examples of prejudice and bias
Write a sentence for each word showing how it could be used. For example:
‘He is definitely prejudiced against women – he never promotes them at work.’
Here are two more examples.
- Prejudice: He was prejudiced against foreign people and wanted to stop all immigration into this country.
- Bias: All the football reports in the local newspaper are biased against visiting teams because the editor is a Manchester City supporter.
The next activity will help you to recognise bias and prejudice.
Activity 14 Recognising bias and prejudice
Read the following letters and answer the questions. Both texts have been adapted from letters to a national newspaper.
The decision to build a new terminal at Stansted Airport is a clear indication that this Government has finally abandoned any pretence of listening to local opinion and are determined to discredit and dismantle any of the remaining rights that local people have to a say in the future of their environment.
No sensible argument has been put forward for the extension. The real losers in this argument are local people. It seems that if you choose to live by an airport you then give up the right to have a say in local matters.
The private sector is the only opinion the Government seems to want to listen to. The wishes of local people are now totally ignored in the planning process.
We all want to see a decent, well-planned travel system but this is not the way to go about it. Everybody should be involved, not just big business.
The announcement that the Stansted extension will go ahead will mean a noise pollution and traffic nightmare for tens of thousands of people living near and around the airport. It must be stopped before it is too late.
The new terminal will bring a horrendous increase in traffic. It is estimated that there will be an increase of over 30 million passengers every year. This is totally unacceptable and we must fight to the death to oppose it. It is simply dreadful that the people of North Essex be made to suffer for the greed of the rest of the country.
It is disgraceful and totally unnecessary that noise and air pollution should be allowed to grow to what will be a deadly level.
1. Is the writer of Letter 1 for or against the extension to the airport? How do you know?
The writer of Letter 1 is against the extension, as shown when they say, ‘No sensible argument has been put forward for the extension.’ But the letter is really about the way in which the decision was taken, without consulting local people.
2. What would you say are the main arguments the writer uses in Letter 1 to support their point of view?
The writer says that the planning process has been ignored and that local people should have been involved in the decision.
3. Is the writer of Letter 2 for or against the extension to the airport? How do you know?
The writer of Letter 2 is obviously against the extension. The letter refers to the increase in noise and air pollution for people living near the airport.
4. What type of words does each writer use to try to get their point of view across?
The words used in Letter 1 are not as strong as in Letter 2. The language used in Letter 2 is sensationalist and emotional, and is aimed at convincing people that the extension is a bad thing.
5. Which letter do you think is the most biased? Explain your reasons.
Letter 2 is more biased because the writer puts forward only one view: that the extension is a bad thing.
If you can quickly recognise a writer’s point of view or see language that is unfair, you can make better decisions about the value of the text. As an active reader you need to keep the writer’s position in mind and always be ready to think of other arguments that might give balance.