No more than any other man or woman so it seems, since we all possess an inclination to present or hold a partial perspective at the expense of ( possibly equally valid ) alternatives.
Inherent biases lie deep within our psyches constantly undermining the way we perceive things, process our thoughts and reach conclusions. Indeed, this form of cognitive bias is the inevitable outcome of human thought, an unfortunate trait of the human condition. This tendency compels us to make systematic errors in certain circumstances, where cognitive factors, rather than evidence, dictate the way information is processed. Heuristics is the science which attempts to examine where this information process encounters either short-cuts or short-circuits.
To malign tournament directors as " biased " is nothing more than bias itself, with a huge dollop of hypocrisy thrown in for good measure. Because one indisputable truth exists: it is impossible for anyone to eliminate bias and other reasoning errors from their decision making process.
For TDs , and the rest of us, this tendency to think and act in a biased way has been nurtured from the day we were born. The tragedy is however is that we all fail to recognise this failing, because it is so implicit. It exists outside our conscious minds, beyond our awareness. It is the product of culture and life experiences. Which family members and friends we attached ourselves to most ? What values sets we were exposed to and aspirations we were encouraged to adopt ? However, some of us may have been brought up in a diverse world, which created the best chance of all to eliminate the influences of a single and corrupting cultural bias.
In the cut and thrust world of tournament bridge, bias will raise its head in one of several ways:
- Observational bias....where there is a tendency to look at something from just one particular point of view
- Confirmation bias .... where the only observation accepted is the one which conforms to the observers pre-selected expectations and desires
" Cargo-cult science " bias.....which directs the individual to interpret information to support his/her favourite hypothesis
- Processing bias - which involves people using selective data only to justify and/or draw their preferred conclusions
This means that in the heated arenas of bridge tournaments, where table conflicts run rife, tempers frayed, and claims met with counter-claims, even the merest hint of bias from the TD will exacerbate these difficult situations even more. TD's are on a hiding to nothing. Their only hope of escaping accusations of bias requires them to adopt and follow these simple rules ( as advocated by the American FBI to their investigating officers ) :1. Remain open minded
2. Stay open to different viewpoints, interpretations, and possible solutions
3. Avoid the tendency to decide on a course of action..... and then search selectively for confirming data to support that decision
4. Examine the available and relevant evidence objectively, before making any decision
5. Avoid judging any book by its cover
6. Don't presume or imagine that the individual under scrutiny is a villain or a threat
7. Don't allow emotions such as anger, guilt and fear to impair common sense and good judgement
8. Be prepared to stand corrected, and seek out second opinions where necessary
In other words TDs need to take on the role of disinterested outsiders. This means also trying to pre-empt what questions they would ask, what information they would seek, and what assumptions they would adopt at the start ?
I'm sure that out there in the world of bridge there are many knowledgeable TDs, who strive to give both book and judgement rulings with as much impartiality and objectivity as they possibly can. Nevertheless the complete elimination of bias, as all philosophers, commentators and psychologists will confirm, is impossible.We as players have to accept the reality of the human condition, live with whatever rulings we get, and move onto the next board.