Bias And Peer Pressure: Identifying Them And Knowing Their Impact

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College is a confusing time for most students. It is a time when a person is figuring out who they are, and what are their likes and dislikes. During this time some very important decisions are made, like they type of degree and type of job that they want after they graduate. These are decisions that will impact their lives in very big ways. They require so much time and thought but these decisions can also be influenced by the slightest things like any type of prejudice from any place like the media or even the government, or by peer pressure from social media or even friend and family.

The media has a tremendous influence over many people even over the government. A simple report can do irreversible damage or even move the masses, provoking riots and marches. But there is a chance the media is not entirely honest with the public. There may be some bias, which is the inclination or prejudice for or against something or someone. And if the government or media has a bias the information should not be fully trusted.

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To reiterate bias in the inclination or prejudice for or against something or someone. According to Doctor Steven J. Allen, from the Capital Research Center who has forty-five years of experience and was also senior researcher to Newt Gingrich, there are eight different types of biases in the media. Bias is a big issue whether it is from the left or right. Dr. Allen separates the types of biases into common categories.

The first type of bias is bias by commission. Bias by commission is when a news report makes claims with errors, or false and/or exaggerated evidence. As an example, Dr. Allen used the march of 1991 “Face the Nation”. During that march the host, Lesley Stahl, claimed that there was an increase in the cases of measles due to the cuts in the federal immunization budgets in the Reagan-era. When in reality the budgets had actually increased from $32 million to $186 million (Allen).

Omission of important facts because they would disprove the claims, they have made is another form of bias. Dr. Allen considers it to be one of the most damaging forms of bias because a crisis could be made even if it was based on refutable statement. Betsy Arron, a reporter form CBS, warned people by pointing out that “the largest opinion” is what is usually left out of the news. She also stated that the real “danger” is the whole areas that are left uncovered (Allen).

The next two types of bias Dr. Allen sheds light on are story selection and placement. Story selectin is when the media “highlights” stories form one side while ignoring the opposing side. And placement is when a story is placed in a specific spot where it could be easily overlooked like in the back of a paper instead of in the front page just because of the simple fact that they don’t support a specific point of view. They do this so the story and all of the information can be downplayed (Allen).

Selection of “experts” is another way the media can push their agenda. What this means is that the reporters have the freedom to choose a quote from an expert that will support their own personal opinion. Despite the possibility that the opposing side may outnumber their opinion. All of this leads to the other type of bias which Dr. Allen refers to as “spin”. This happens when a reporter blows up specific parts of a story in the hopes to cover up the rest (Allen).

Dr. Allen also talks about the labelling of ideas or group of people, for example “right-wing”, “left-wing”, “liberals”, or “conservatives”. These labels have a very big impact on the public, changing their opinion on the group of people or the ideas. Finally, Dr. Allen talks about policy recommendation. This is when the media offers solutions to the problems that they are reporting on. And according to Dr. Allen those solutions the majority of the time fit into their own agenda (Allen).

FAIR, which is a national progressive media watchdog group, addresses some of the same points as Dr. Allen does such as where the sources are coming from, if there is a skew on coverage based on a stereotype, and the type of language used, among several other point. FAIR gives several other ways in which a person can find out if the media is being biased. One of the biases addressed by FAIR is lack of diversity on the experts and reporters involved when writing a news report. There should be a diversity in gender, race, and background. FAIR states that there is bound to be bias in a news report if for example there is a group of all-male experts that are discussing issues that are having an effect on women and vice versa (FAIR).

Point of view is another important things people should pay-attention to news reports should include how all people on all sides of an issue are affected. Double standards are another thing that FAIR pointed out. They explain this as being discriminative to some degree by holding different groups of people to different standards instead of being on the same level. They use an example crime. If a young person of colour were to commit a crime they would be classified as a “super predator” and if an “average” adult were to commit a white-collar crime the media would claim that they were being “led astray” (FAIR).

COM Library is library located in the College of the Mainland (COM), which has information which greatly overlaps with the information given by Dr. Allen and by FAIR. COM point out several things to look for in a new report to check for bias. First consider what kind of information it is, where does it come from (Example: opinion, news, etc.), and if it is meant to provoke emotion or thought. Then, look at the type of evidence, meaning if it is from a credible source like a valid document. Or is it from a witness, or a simply a speculation. Lastly, COM states that the evidence should that have been given should support the news reports main point (COM).

Bias is something to look out for. It spreads fraudulent information or only half of the story. Most people are oblivious to this believing everything they see and what they are told by the media. This can have several chain reactions that can lead to peer pressure among young adults like college students as mentioned before. Peer pressure occurs when an individual feel as if they need, to do the same thing as others are doing in their own age or social group in order to be accepted or respected by the rest. This may include changing one’s attitude, values, and even behaviour.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services young adults are the ones that are more susceptible to peer pressure because they are at a stage in their lives in which they are discovering who they are. Social acceptance has a great influence on that (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). The Child Trends News Service Project which is a project that aims to amplify the knowledge on child development, conducted a study to see how the brain of a young adult would react to social acceptance. At the end of the study they found that the reward region of the brain was extremely active once they were liked (Child Trends News Service).

To summarize the media has a substantial amount of influence over the public. The trust the public has towards the media is being taken advantage of, therefore allowing bias to slip by unnoticed. This can have many effects on people but young adults, like college students, are more likely to be affected by the media and their bias. This is due to peer pressure, they see large groups of people standing up for a particular ideal, no matter what it is even if it goes against their own beliefs, they join in fear of not getting accepted by society. But peer pressure is not limited to large issues it can be smaller less significant choices as well, making it possible for it to influence the person’s life.

In conclusion, there are many ways to identify if there is bias in the media. Bias is a serious issue that should not be taken lightly. It can have many negative effects like peer pressure, spreading false information, or even in severe cases causing panic. Most of these having a direct impact on the choices and identities of young adults. For these reasons the public should follow the steps given by Dr. Allen, FAIR, and COM to ensure that they are not being misinformed and encourage other to do the same.  


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