Addressing Bias in Conflict and Dispute Resolution Setting - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 62, No. 4
John Livingood has been mediating a wide variety of disputes for more than 10 years. He is a mediator for the National Mediation Board. In addition, he has mediated for the U. S. Postal Service and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and should not be attributed to any other person or public or private entity. This article looks at the interrelationship between bias and conflict and suggests various approaches to avoid or reduce the potentially negative effect of bias in conflict situations.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
Bias is a naturally occurring aspect of human behavior. Since the word “bias” could mean different things to different people, for the purposes of this article it means showing partiality to one side in a controversy or being predisposed to decide a certain way. Having bias or a predisposition to one side precludes hearing a matter with an open mind, participating in a process evenhandedly, or exercising powers impartially.1
Bias can contribute to the creation of conflict and increase its duration. Conflict, in turn, can create and intensify bias. Left unchecked, bias distorts how we communicate and interpret communications. Consequently, it complicates the process of conflict resolution. Thus, understanding the relationship between conflict and bias can assist in developing approaches to resolve conflict.
In order to develop this understanding, this article considers four types of bias based on their source: learned bias, incident-caused bias, process-driven bias, and attributional bias, a type of bias that often results when people find themselves in adversarial positions. Although incident-caused bias and process-driven bias eventually evolve into learned bias, their separate evaluation is helpful in formulating approaches that avoid bias or minimize its impact. Next, this article reviews four core biases that affect judgment in conflict situations.