Mediators, so you think you're neutral? Bias hard to detect in ourselves, study shows

Bias blind spotsFor mediators, impartiality is our stock-in-trade. The integrity and fairness of the process depend upon our ability to conduct ourselves as “neutrals”, a term we often use to describe the role we serve.

Much ink, both real and virtual, has been spilled in exploring the meaning and significance of impartiality, together with its implications for mediation practice and the extent to which it defines the mediator’s role and limits the possible interventions a mediator may deploy. (Consider, for example, this article that asks “Impartiality v. Substantive Neutrality: Is the Mediator Authorized to Provide Legal Advice?“) In fact, googling together the words “mediator” and “impartiality” yields 617,000 hits, signaling that this is a topic of interest for both mediators and consumers of their services.

It’s a preoccupation that of course I share. If you do as well, then consider the following articles on bias.

From The Situationist: “I’m Objective, You’re Biased“, which looks at “bias blind spots”–the extent to which many of us readily spot bias in others while remaining blind to our own.

And from ScientificAmerican.com,”Not-so-deliberate: The decisive power of what you don’t know you know“, which looks at the ways in which “even seemingly rational, straightforward, conscious decisions about arbitrary matters can easily be biased by inputs coming in below our radar of awareness.”

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