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Affiliation Bias (Also, Philosocom's Directory on Biases)

Updated: May 13

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To promote something, like an ideology or a principle, just because one is affiliated with it or with a sect/organization behind it, is something one can call "Bias by affiliation". To be affiliated with something, you see, instead of choosing to look at things from an eagle's view, is something that could be difficult for one in the search for the truth. It's simply because this bias encourages you to convince yourself it is true, even if there is a certain flaw that makes it questionable.

Due to this bias, some flaws may be overlooked, and thus, the content provider wouldn't be as reliable as they otherwise could've been. They would've been more reliable if they recognized the flaws of their agendas instead of promoting it to be loftier than it actually is.

Would you be willing to go against your own religion? Your family values? Your chosen political party? If you are not biased by your affiliation, then you would, if you didn't deny the truth of its existence. If you automatically support someone or something because you are affiliated with it, then you would have a harder time criticizing them, and thus you would overlook the counter-points which are against them.

And if someone would point out their flaws, you might feel the need to be defensive. Since offense can be used out of defensiveness, you may use fallacies such as ad-hominem, whataboutism and the strawman's fallacy to divert the feelings of being attacked, by projecting them unto the critic.

Here's an example I found on one of my media feeds. A religious Jewish man claimed that thanks to the Talmud, a central Jewish text, people who do didn't study the core curriculum in regular education, have a higher chance to be accepted into high-tech jobs. The problem with the arguement he presented lies in two points:

  1. Insufficient evidence to back up his claims.

  2. Claiming he knows his claims "from the field" (or from experience, which could be evident of the anecdotal fallacy).

The man further talked about how the Talmud helps the young brain develop as a stimulating source of study. However, those who disagreed with him criticized him for not bringing up any data to support his argument. Those who played "the Devil's Advocate", argued that indeed there were certain genuises and prodigies who manage to succeed in the high-tech niche despite not being studying the core curriculum.

However, to generalize them as being highly competent due to the Talmud, and not due to their own unique genius, would be a mistake that derives from the affiliating bias towards the Haredim community, who study the talmud and other such texts predominantly in the Israeli population.

After all, he didn't mention the haredim who fail in this niche. In 2022, the exact year that post was published, Globes reported that Haredi integration into high tech is stalling.

From this we can learn two insights:

  1. Information presented in social media feeds is not accurate, despite being preferred by the population over articles. UnconventionalRD: "Social media also moves a lot faster than blogging. You post something, people see it, and you start getting engagement and feedback almost immediately." 1.1. However, despite the masssive userbase invovled, many social media posts lack sources, as there are less/no consequences for individual people posting information on social media before veryfing it, thus increasing the spread of misinformation over these popular platforms.

  2. The affiliation bias can deceive you merely because you support a certain group/social category, or are a part of such a category. 2.1. In a sense, positivity can therefore blind us from the broader scope of reality. That bias is well-deserved when someone passed away (AKA honoring the dead), but not in many other cases.

If this religious man was not biased by his affiliation to Judaism, he would've tried to pay equal attention to the usefulness of core studies in non-Haredi education, AKA, the rest of the public education program, which includes English, mathematics and more.

And for sure, he also considered the many other Haredis who are not in the tech industry/dropped off from that industry. Instead, due to his support towards his own social category and towards the talmud, he undermined the rest of the general picture, and instead promoted specific components of it, as if they are the general state of affairs.

And as such, no attention from him was dedicated to the effect of the rival education program, the core curriculum, whose studies can traditionally give you access to more fields of employment should you graduate from high school. Learning the talmud, even if it enhances your intellect, will not necessarily earn you the favor of your future employers.

It's no surprise then, that the Haredim in Israel suffer from greater social immobility. And one of the contributing factors is many of them not learning in regular educational institutions.

We can thus learn from him in his post, he was quite an unreliable source, due to his bias. Take note, that people who are as biased as he was, would probably agree with him as well, because it reinforces the narrative of their own bias.

These are one of the many examples I have encountered throughout my life on the bias of religion and bias in general when it comes to something someone supports.

One time when I was a student, I was told by a classmate that there are people from other religions who convert to Judaism, which is certainly true.

However, I made a counter-point, that there are also those who abandon this religion, or at least turn from religious or secular (and many secular Jews in general find religion irrelevant to their lives). Not having an ability to dispute my counter-point, the classmate was inclined to agree.

Now, if I wouldn't come up with this argument, said classmate might've overlooked the fact that his religion is also abandoned by some, just as it is sought by converts from other religions.

In philosophy, being wrong is more important than one may think. It is even more important when one recognizes their fallacy. Being proving wrong can easily be the stepping stone to the truth.

In society in general, it is a bigger thing to convert to another religion than it is to subscribe to a different philosophy or philosopher. It's because religion is usually more dominant in one's life than one's thoughts are, as religion often comes with a greater sence of identity, both individually, collectively, and in some cases, nationally.

If you live in a Christian nation, for example, and decide you turn Hindu, not all people are going to like it. That could even include your family. As a result of this religious change you might even be estranged. You might be harassed, laughed at and so on. The religions I mentioned are just examples; I wasn't referring to Christianity specifically as I didn't to Hinduism. It's just that, if you decide one day to become nihilist after being existentialist, you will not be as bothered by other people as you would with adopting a new religion.

And the greater value normally attributed to religion compared to philosophy, as the former is greatly institutional, often compels you to be biased to your affiliation to it.

That is a problem that I have with any societal affiliation: The fact that it isn't as open minded as philosophy, and the fact that open mindness is imperative for the seeking of the truth. Not as open minded to the point of finding out that some of its claims were false. This is why I have a problem with being a part of society: It's unnecessarily more difficult to criticize it when you're not outside of it.

There's no point thinking outside the box if you can't act outside the box.

Religion is a very tribal thing, you see. Not because of primitivity, but because it is so embedded with identity, it is very tempting to become biased by your affiliation with it. If presented with something being declared as false but is actually a very important thing in your religion, then you, the religious member, will be inclined to find as many ways as possible to debunk it.

And you, in some instances, may feel compelled to do it in the name of loyalty, or even in the name of not being criticized by your own people. It difficult therefore, to choose the religious path in life, if you seek clarity, which much of it is arguably given by doubting yourself and your ideals.

Apply the same to any affiliation that won't necessarily accept you if you criticize it in the name of the truth.

One of my motives for partially isolating myself from this world was to try and be more neutral and less biased by external sources. It is done by observing things from afar and very rarely participating in them, whether these are politics or even a comment section about something intellectually based.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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