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Patreon at SXSW: 5 Things We Learned about Fighting Bias with Content

Ever felt like you're suffering from decision fatigue? You're not alone; some experts estimate that our brains average around 35,000 decisions a day. With thoughts firing and circulating in our minds, it’s not that surprising that the mental shortcuts our brains take can lead to cognitive bias.

In the SXSW session, “How You Can Fight Bias with Content Strategy,” David Dylan Thomas of Think Company, shared some surprising facts on how our cognitive biases seep into everything we create - even our content.

So what’s a cognitive bias?

Cognitive bias a systematic error in reasoning, evaluating, predicting, or remembering. It’s defined as systematic because it’s automatic and unintentional; it's also defined as erroneous because it defies logic in favor of our own experiences and perspectives. Or, an easier way to describe cognitive bias is a shortcut you make in your mind that often times helps... but sometimes hurts.

So, for creators, the question is: how can these mental shortcuts impact your creative work?

Patreon SXSW19 Panel Alexis-Gay color-4

Here are 5 things to keep in mind about fighting bias when it comes to content:

  1. If it’s easy to read, we think it’s true (does “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” ring a bell?). And if it rhymes, it’s even more likely we see it as fact. That’s the impact of cognitive fluency when it comes to content strategy, so make you're your words match the message you truly want to convey.

  2. When creating content it’s smart to break things down into categories of signal vs. noise to avoid cognitive bias. An example of signal vs. noise would be evaluating someone for a position, the signal could be defined as experience and qualifications, the noise could be described as gender and race.

  3. Most of the time we don’t even know why we are making the decisions we’re making because of our innate cognitive biases. Our perspectives, experiences, and inclinations play a big role in what we decide to do, which makes it important to constantly check ourselves when it comes to why we decide to create certain content.

  4. When you create something or write something, it’s a great idea to have someone with a different perspective (who hasn’t been involved in your project) review it for bias. Think of it as ‘red team’ and ‘blue team’ if ‘red team’ writes up a content strategy, have ‘blue team’ who hasn’t been involved in the ideation check it for bias.

  5. When users see your copy as easy to read, they believe the process associated with the content is easy as well. The same rings true if the content looks difficult to read, they’ll believe the process is difficult. This is important to keep in mind when writing content copy or documentation.

So, how do we avoid bias?

A great way to avoid bias is by implementing the scientific method to your content. Systematic observation, measurement, and experimentation not only ensure you optimize your content to reach your desired results, but it also makes it less likely that bias seeps through.

Awareness is the answer

So, what was our biggest takeaway from the session? It isn’t always easy, but awareness of and the desire to work on our innate biases can transform the way we create. Being more aware gives us the opportunity to make inclusive content that reaches and resonates with our entire audience.

Ready to learn even more ways you can create inclusive and impactful content? Request an invite and join us at our House of Creativity where we’ll be hosting sessions on impactful social change, strategies for engaging with your community, and letting you know how you can use your platform for good. Can’t wait to learn with you, see you there!