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Multimedia literacy

Literacy: reading, writing, & beyond


This article includes introductory information for multimedia literacy, the importance of moving beyond literacy, which focuses only on reading and writing, and information for planning and facilitating it.

Topics include: an introduction, multimedia goals, outcomes, inquiry process, philosophies, implementation suggestions analyze media for young and intermediate learners, questions for deep inquiry, fact and opinion, fact and fiction, propaganda, its strategies and techniques to influence actions, questions to evaluate a viral video, core principles of literacy, and strategies for action.

Other supporting resources


The massive amount of information, ideas, and messages disseminated through different media is significant. Creating vast amounts of information to sift through, to discover what is needed to be informed citizens.

It is the ability to use multi-media to access that information that needs to be included in what it means to be: literate.

Learned societies have recognized this and expanded their information in their standard documents to include media beyond reading and writing text.

Two examples:

“People need to know more than core subjects. They need to know how to use their knowledge and skills – by thinking critically, applying knowledge to new situations, analyzing information, comprehending new ideas, communicating, collaborating, solving problems, making decisions... (They) need to become lifelong learners, updating their knowledge and skills continually and independently.” 
 Learning for the 21st Century, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills

“Conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems . . . gather, evaluate and synthesize data from a variety of sources (print and non print) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.”  
International Reading Association

Therefore, it is critical to address these needs.

Research suggests that a media specialist or librarian not only improves multimedia literacy, but increases the over all achievement in schools who have them as opposed to those who don't.

This achievement is increased by providing:

  • Instruction to students and teachers, both in classroom settings and independently.
  • Planning collaboratively with classroom teachers.
  • Providing professional develop to teachers and staff.
  • Meeting regularly with the principal.
  • Serving on key school leadership committees.
  • Facilitating the use of technology by students and teachers.
  • Providing technology support to teachers.
  • Providing reading incentive programs.
  • Selecting materials and recommending materials to students and teachers.

Goals & Outcomes for multimedia literacy


  • Research
  • Analyze to make decisions
  • Communicate information in a variety of media - textual, visual, digital

Outcomes for multimedia literacy

  1. Understand the characteristics of media
    • All media messages are constructed.
    • Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.
    • Different people experience the same media message differently.
    • Media have embedded values and points of view.
    • Most media are organized to gain profit and/or power.
    • Media can be created for purposes of propaganda.
  2. Actively inquires and thinks critically about all messages received and created.
  3. Expands comprehension skills of reading and writing to include all forms of media in any possible setting.
  4. Can build and reinforcethe skills necessary for learners of all ages and integrate them across all curricular areas and levels to communicate. (not just for teachers, but for everyone to be able to facilitate media literacy for everyone.)
  5. Is informed, reflective and an engaged participant in a democratic manner that is respectful and supportive of diverse points of view and values, that promote interest in current events and independently produced media essential to healthy productive lives.
  6. Recognizes that media are a part of culture and function as agents of socialization. Shared responsibility among members of the community to facilitate mutual understanding of the impact of media on individuals and on society.
  7. Affirms that people use their individual skills, beliefs and experiences to construct their own meanings from media messages, reflect on the meaning of those messages, how those meanings relate to their values and clarify their perspectives on a healthy and productive life.

Inquiry process

The ability to use information wisely, and the skills required to do so, are achieved when learners interact with all kinds of media to understand the messages contained in them and answer questions through a rigorous methodological procedure with ingenuity and critical thinking represented by - deep understanding, ingenious curiosity and epistemological curiosity. Such a process might include these steps:

Inquiry five steps

  • Access appropriate information for a required situation;
  • Analyze and evaluate what is found;
  • Formulate questions to clarify the search;
  • Summarize and integrate what is concluded and;
  • Communicate it – clearly – to someone else.

Expanding literacy beyond printed text and writing is not new. It has been explored and delineated by various organizations. Two such organizations:

  1. Center for Media Literacy
  2. Media Literacy Now and
  3. Project Look Sharp from Ithaca College - 12 Basic Ways to Integrate Media Literacy and Critical Thinking into Any Curriculum .pdf

Along with these ideas to use a multimedia planning framework to critically analyze and evaluate literature.

Multi media Literacy Educational Philosophy

Based on the Center for Media Literacy three intertwining concepts.

1. Media literacy is education for life in a global media world.

For 500 years, since the invention of movable type, we have valued the ability to read and write as the primary means of communicating and understanding history, cultural traditions, political and social philosophy and the news of the day. In more recent times, traditional literacy skills ensured that individuals could participate fully as engaged citizens and functioning adults in society. Today me must prepare young people for living and learning in a global culture that is increasingly connected through multi-media and influenced by powerful images, words and sounds.

2. The heart of media literacy is informed inquiry.

Through an empowerment spiral of a four-step ‘inquiry’ process of -
Awareness . . . Analysis . . . Reflection and . . .Action... that can empower learners with the abilities to:

  • Access information from a variety of sources.
  • Analyze and explore how messages are “constructed” whether print, verbal, visual or multi-media.
  • Evaluate media’s explicit and implicit messages against one’s own ethical, moral and/or democratic principles.
  • Express or create their own messages using a variety of media tools.

3. Media literacy is an alternative to censoring, boycotting or blaming ‘the media.’

If we are deeply committed to freedom of expression, then media literacy is necessary to have citizens who think independently and critically analyze information from all media sources in a manner that enables them to make wise choices. In a society that is media literate there will not be partisan agendas or political points of view.

Implementation suggestions to analyze media

Suggested instructional procedure.

  1. Ask. What goals do people have when they create a ______ (insert a type of media: text, post, book, article, song, video, ...)?
  2. Accept all answers and document them for all to see.
  3. Combine and organize similar ideas in categories.
  4. Compare the categories to the five goals below and decide on a comprehensive list.
  5. Using the list create a focus questions for each to use to analyze media.
  6. Compare focus question and subquestions created to the examples below.
  7. Use the goals and focus questions to analyze media.

Goals for media and focus question to analyze media for the author's goals

  1. All media messages are constructed.
    Focus question - Who created this message?
    • What is this?
    • How is it put together?
  2. Media messages are constructed using a creative language using its own rules.
    Focus question - What techniques are used to attract my attention?
    • What do I see or hear? Smell? Touch or taste?
  3. What do I like or dislike about this? 3. Different people experience the same media message differently.
    Focus question - How might different people understand this message differently?
    • What might other people think and feel about this?
    • What do I think and feel about this?
  4. Media have embedded value and points of view.
    Focus question - What lifestyles, values and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?
    • What does this tell me about how other people live and behave?
    • Is anything or anyone left out?
  5. Most media are organized to gain profit and or power.
    Focus question - Why was this message sent?
    • Is this trying to tell me something?
    • Is this trying to sell me something?

Implementation suggestions for intermediate learners

Suggested instructional procedure.

  1. Ask. What might people consider when they analyze a ______ (insert a type of media: text, post, book, article, song, video, ...)?
  2. Accept all answers and document them for all to see.
  3. Combine and organize similar ideas in categories.
  4. Compare the categories to the five ideas below and decide on a comprehensive list.
  5. Using the list, create a guiding questions for each to use to analyze media.
  6. Compare focus question and subquestions created to the examples below.
  7. Use the goals and focus questions to analyze media.

Media category, focus questions, and guiding questions

1 - Authorship - all media messages are constructed.

Focus question - Who constructed this message?

Guiding Questions for Authorship:

  • What kind of “text” is it? What are the various elements (building blocks) that make up the whole?
  • How similar or different is it to others of the same genre?
  • Which technologies are used in its creation?
  • What choices were made that might have been made differently?
  • How many people did it take to create this message? What

2 - Format - media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.

Focus question - What techniques are used to attract my attention?

Guiding Questions for Format:

  • What do you notice… (about the way the message is constructed)?
  • Colors? Shapes? Size?
  • Sounds, Words? Silence?
  • Props, sets, clothing?
  • Movement?
  • Composition? Lighting? Where is the camera?
  • What is the viewpoint?
  • How is the story told visually?
  • What are people doing?
  • Are there any symbols? Visual metaphors?
  • What’s the emotional appeal?
  • Persuasive devices used?
  • What makes it seem “real?”

3 - Content - Different people experience the same media message differently.

Focus question - How might different people understand this message differently?

Guiding Questions for Audience

  • Have you ever experienced anything like this in your life?
  • How close is this portrayal to your experience?
  • What did you learn from this media text?
  • What did you learn about yourself from experiencing the media text?
  • What did you learn from other people’s response?
  • From their experience of life?
  • How many other interpretations could there be? How could we hear about them?
  • Are other viewpoints just as valid as mine?
  • How can you explain the different responses?

4 - Audience - Media have embedded values and points of view.

Focus question - What lifestyles, values and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

Guiding Questions for Content

  • What kinds of behaviors /consequences are depicted?
  • What type of person is the reader / watcher / listener invited to identify with?
  • What questions come to mind as you watch / read /listen?
  • What ideas or values are being “sold” to us in this message?
  • What political ideas are communicated in the message? Economic ideas?
  • What judgments or statements are made about how we treat other people?
  • What is the overall world view of the message?
  • What ideas or perspectives are left out? How would you find what’s missing?

5 - Purpose - Most media are organized to gain profit and/or power. 

Focus question - Why was this message sent?

Guiding Questions for Purpose

  • Who’s in control of the creation and transmission of this message? Why are they sending it? How do you know?
  • Who are they sending it to? How do you know?
  • What’s being sold in this message? What’s being told?
  • Who profits from this message?
  • Who pays for it?
    Who is served by or benefits from the message – the public? – private interests? – individuals? – institutions?
  • What economic decisions may have influenced the construction or transmission of this message?

Implementation suggestions for deeper inquiry into symbols used, kinds of messages, & the message

As learners become more skilled in media literacy, more complex analysis is possible. The following outline is another way of asking questions in order to explore the connections and interconnections between the content, form, purpose and effects of a media message. The numbers at the end of each question indicate which media category the question expands.

Questions for deeper inquiry into symbols used, kinds of messages, & the message

1. Messages and Values — exploring the content of a media message.

These questions help us understand how the symbol system of a message influences its interpretation by different people; how the symbols that are selected for a message tap into our existing attitudes, knowledge and understanding of the world.

  1. What makes this message seem realistic or unrealistic? (#2)
  2. How does this message fit with your lived experience of the world? (#3)
  3. How are various social groups represented? (#4)
  4. What social or ideological messages are a part of the message’s subtext? (#4)
  5. What kinds of behaviors and what kinds of consequences are depicted? (#4)
  6. What type of person is the reader invited to identify with? (#4)
  7. What is omitted from the message? (#4)
  8. Whose point of view is presented? (#4)

2. Codes and Conventions — exploring the form of the message.

The following kinds of questions help us appreciate the constructiveness of messages, how ideas and concepts are created, expressed and “packaged” for specific audiences.

  1. What is the message genre? ( #1)
  2. What techniques are used to attract my attention? (#2)
  3. What conventions of storytelling are used in this message? (#2)
  4. What types of visual and/or verbal symbolism are used to construct the message? (#2)
  5. What kinds of persuasive or emotional appeals are used in this message? (#2)
  6. What technologies were used to construct this message? (#1)
  7. How is this message similar and different from others with similar content? (#1)

3. Producers and Consumers — exploring the purpose and effects.

These type of questions help us see the multiple decisions that are made from beginning to end as the message is created and distributed plus the multiple interpretations that are created in the audience as they watch, see or listen:

  1. Who created this message? (#1)
  2. What is the producer’s purpose? (#5)
  3. Who is the target audience? (#5)
  4. How have economic decisions influenced the construction of this message? (#5)
  5. What reasons might an individual have for being interested in this message? (#3)
  6. How do different individuals respond emotionally to this message? (#3)
  7. How might different individuals interpret this message differently? (#3)

Propaganda, fringe science, junk science, pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, hoaxes, & brainwashing

In essence, propaganda may be unadulterated nonsense but if packaged in an easy-to-understand formula, then a significant number of people will consider this nonsense to be true.

Alexander Podrabinek

Bigfoot warning sign

Propaganda is biased or misleading information, communicated to promote or publicize a particular cause or point of view, often political. It is a method of censorship.

However, language makes it very easy for people to exaggerate and lie. What’s more people are biased to believe that what they hear is true. For example, when you ask a person the time and they look at their phone or watch and tell you, you will believe them if they don’t tell a time that is unbelievable for the situation. It is this honesty bias that opens people to deception. Source The Truth about Lies: The illusion of honesty and the evolution of deceit. By Aja Raden

Therefore, it is important to recognize propaganda, in order to make sure we are making decisions and forming opinions about the world. Decisions based on reliable facts, and not manipulated through deceptions into thinking or doing something without knowing the intended consequences.

To recognize propaganda, it is necessary to first know the difference between fact, opinion, and fantasy. Let's review them.

Facts, opinion, & fiction


Fact (green) or opinion (red) text

Facts are the real. They are observable in real life and can be proved by evidence and logic.

Facts can be proved.

  • Washington was the first president of the United States.
  • People need oxygen to survive.
  • The sky is blue. Above the clouds.
  • Clouds are normally white because they reflect sunlight from above.
  • Elephants are gray.
  • Some people own pets.
  • Lincoln is the capital of Nebraska.
  • The Earth is a sphere.
  • The Earth has one moon.
  • The Earth rotates once every twenty-four hours (day).
  • The world wastes about 1 billion metric tons of food a year.
  • You are reading this.


Fact (green) or fiction (red) text

Opinions are statements of assumptions, belief, attitude, value, judgment, or feel about something. They may be based on perspectives, experiences, and observation, but can not be proved true or false. They are debatable and often expressed with bias.


  • Dogs make the best pets.
  • Rural living is best.
  • I think hot dogs are sandwiches.
  • I believe our team will win the game.
  • Tall players are always better in basketball.
  • Strawberry ice cream is best.
  • Our team should win.
  • In my point of view the college with the most money has the better players.
  • The prairie is a beautiful place where plants have lived and bloomed for centuries.
  • Here is the special way the prairie has survived despite challenges.
  • Remarkably, anthropologists discover amazing things about prehistoric peoples..
  • People like that name better.


Purple cow

Fictions are made-up or imaginary ideas created in the mind. They cannot be proved.


  • Flying fire breathing dragons are spectacular animals.
  • A Martian hosted CNN nightly news.
  • Grapes have wings and fly.

Things that are most likely fiction, but sometimes people disagree.

  • Big foot or Sasquatch exists.
  • Nessi (Loch Ness monster) is real.
  • Earth is flat .
  • Sugar makes kids hyperactive.
  • Most body heat is lost through the head.
  • You should stretch before you exercise.
  • Washington had wooden teeth.
  • Purple cows exist.

Reasons people disagree.

  • Bias
  • They want to believe magic can happen.
  • They have seen photos and believe they are accurate enough to be evidence to support their claim.
  • Misconceptions and faulty reasoning

Ways people try to convince people fake information is true.

Why does it seem more people believe false information today than previously?

For example the Earth is flat.

Let’s say one person in a million believes the Earth is flat.

Before the Internet it was very difficult to find another person, say one out of two million, to agree the Earth is flat. Or 300 people out of 300 million.

This being the case, there were so many other people who didn’t support their views, that they might change their mind, or most likely be silenced, by the many with a more accurate view.

However, with the Internet it is easier for people with misinformation to find that one in a million person who agrees with them to support their claims. Making it falsely appear their views are widely shared.

Spreading of misinformation

When the Internet spreads information. It's not how fast it spreads, but the more it spreads, which makes the information more dense. And the more dense the information, the more difficult it is to filter out. Therefore, the more dense the false information, the more difficult it is to eliminate.

It has been said that misinformation spreads farther faster and deeper, because people like new and different ideas. However, while people do like novelty, facts can be just as novel.

Therefore, it is more complicated. People may look at a drawing of a map for a flat Earth and think it is novel, but most will chuckle and still believe the Earth is a sphere.

Algorithms are written to get clicks to send ads, and make money for the web sites that distribute the ads. This creates the density situation where misinformation is spread widely, but what people do with it isn’t always straight forward.

People are more likely to use misinformation to support views they already have or prefer, rather than change them or to make difficult choices. In fact this may be one reason that research found misleading information had a much bigger effect on people and spread farther than outright falsehoods. Source. Science May 31, 2024. A Broader View of Misinfomraiton Reveals Potential for Intervention. Sander van der Linden & Yara Kyrychenko.

The problem this creates, is many people have misconceptions, or idealogical views, or political beliefs, that will not cause them to do the critical thinking needed to acknowledge the truth.

People, in general, want to believe the truth, but if it isn't presented, or they don't take time to think critically, then the information will not be recognized as propaganda and they will be bamboozled.

For example researchers found misinformation about vaccines caused a decline of six percent in people saying they would definitely accept a vaccine.

Misinformation travels through all media. Even traditional media, which causes them to feel obligated to include it to their viewers.

Source On the Trail of Bullshit. Studying misinformation should become a top scientific priority, says biologist Carl Bergstrom. By Kai Kupferschmidt. Science March 25, 2022


Methods people use to discredit sources:

Propagandists take things apart, to peel away the layers of the onion until nothing is left but the tears of others and their own cynical laughter. Timothy Snyder

Methods include:

  • 1) Deny, 2) Project, 3) Deflect, 4) Praise - something or anything related from the we group, and 5) Attack somethingor anything unrelated from a they group. See We & They poem
  • The tactic is dishonest, yet simple: Take an actual act of deception, perpetrated by an actor and covered heavily by the press, and use it to suggest that anything reported by mainstream sources cannot be trusted. Everything is a hoax.
  • Propagandists know that their power increases substantially when they can convince their audiences not to trust other sources of information.
  • Review a long lasting situation to claim a supposed dishonest source is continually wrong or their assault of you and your ideas never ends.
  • When you cannot argue on the facts, it is much easier to dismiss a story in its entirety and go after the credibility of the person reporting it.
  • It's the timeless play assault the character of the person or media as being crazy, insane, …

Strategies or techniques to entice action

  • Humor - Funny or crazy images.
  • Macho - Strong, tough, powerful – usually males. May display weapons or be pictured in dangerous situations. Cowboys.
  • Friends - Groups of people enjoying each other or doing things. Buddies, pals and friends.
  • Family - Mother, father, children or close groups. May be intergenerational group.
  • Fun - Everyone is happy – smiling and laughing. Often images of people enjoying activities.
  • Nature - Settings outdoors at the beech, ocean, in the mountains, desert, snow, with flowers, animals, wind, rain, sunshine ... and may or may not include people.
  • Sexy - Emphatic display of physical attributes similar to those of models, usually female; may include tight or revealing clothing and flirtatious behavior or sensuous body language or movements.
  • Cartoon - People or animals imaged as drawing, caricature, or animation, often humorous.
  • Celebrity -  Someone most people recognize – athlete, musician, politician, movie star...
  • Wealth - Expensive and elegant places and things. Estates, lavish apartments, houses, shiny sleek new cars, bling, designer clothes, …
  • Bandwagon - Images of many people engaging in the product or idea that is being promoted. The idea that everyone is doing it and you don't want to be the only one not included in the fun or among the out crowd.
  • Exigency - The idea that the offer is limited, act now, time is running out...
  • Transfer - Including a know desired or person, idea, or object next to the idea or product being sold or pushed. A movie star, athlete, sleek fast car...
  • Testimonial - A person with expertise of skill speaks in favor of a product or idea.
  • Emotional words or images - Images of homeless or hungry children are shown when asking for donations to feed the hungry around the world. Words and phrases used to convince people not to smoke or drink and drive.

Questions to evaluate a viral video

When you see a viral video ask:

  • What happened the five minutes before and what happened five minutes later?
  • Who made it?
  • What was happening out of view of the camera?
  • What could be their reasons for making it?
  • Where was it made?
  • When was it made?

Suggestions for outcomes related to bias and propagana

  • Learn about ways that biased scripts and practices are taught in different cultures.
  • Learn to identify and call out prejudicial phrases and contexts.
  • Consider and counter the cumulative impact of prejudicial messages on people of color, lower socioeconomic status, disabled, handicapped, homeless, religious, in civic life.
  • Reach beyond assumptions kindness and work toward restorative talk oriented toward justice.
  • Explore how and why disinformation is promoted by political organizations and other groups.
  • Analyze why so much mis- and disinformation focuses on promotes fear of “them”.
  • Reflect on how your beliefs influence how you evaluate and share information.
  • Examine ways that platforms structure online voice and discourse.
  • Consider the relationship between individual voices online and the ways they reach audiences or influences others.
  • Explore the influences of algorithms on cultural and racial differences and bias.
  • Why so much distrust and disrespect for others?
  • If I get you to distrust others, then you will look to me for trust and I have power over you.

More information for critical media literacy

Resources to learn and teach about propaganda


  • Media mogul
  • Go viral simulation to protect agains covid-19
  • Harmony Square is a game about disinformation, designed to expose the tactics and manipulation techniques that bad actors use to mislead their audience, build a following, and exploit societal tensions to their benefit.

Core Principles of Literacy

Derived from - “Just Think” ideas on - media literacy education

1. Being or becoming literate requires active inquiry and critical thinking about all messages we receive and create. This includes asking questions about all messages in all media in all settings to analyze purposes and consequences which recognize such things as:

  • All media messages are “constructed.”
  • Each medium has a unique “language” of construction.
  • Media messages are produced for particular purposes.
  • All media messages contain embedded values.
  • People construct their own meanings from media messages based on their life experience.
  • Media messages influence attitudes, beliefs, values, behaviors, and the democratic process.

Instructional suggestions

  • Questions: How does the piece of media make you feel? What does it make you think? What characteristics of the language of media cause these feelings or thoughts?
  • Ask students to to communicate and support their findings regarding media: shot sizes/angles, characteristics of sound (pitch, rhythm, timbre), use of light and color, etc.

2. Being or becoming literate requires abilities beyond reading and writing to include all forms of media in any possible setting. It recognizes that all people express and communicate ideas through multiple forms of media production and welcomes this broad range of media - including popular media and beyond.

Instructional suggestions

  • Conduct inquiries and communicate resulting information with media other than the traditional textual limited assignments.
  • Integrate multi media usage and interdisciplinary themes to demonstrate the productive power of subject knowledge within the real world.

3. Being or becoming literate builds and reinforces skills necessary for learners of all ages. Multi literacy integrates across all curricular areas and levels, which affords greater opportunities for repeated practice to develop skills to analyze and express ideas that encourage healthy productive lives.

Instructional suggestions

  • Ask students to interview their family members about their media diet and report back to their peers about what kinds and how much media families are interacting with.

4. Being or becoming literate develops informed, reflective and engaged participants essential for democratic society. Where literate people are respectful and supportive of diverse points of view and values, where they promote interest in current events and independently produced media essential to healthy productive lives.

Instructional suggestions

  • Use multiple, varied examples and resources that feature diverse points of view
  • Encourage students to use more than one type of resource (print, web, oral history, images, etc) in their learning.

5. Being or becoming literate recognizes that media are a part of culture and function as agents of socialization. It results in a shared responsibility among members of the community to facilitate mutual understanding of the impact of media on individuals and on society.

Instructional suggestions

  • Use relevant media, start with media that students like and currently engage with.
  • Ask how preconceived ideas affect how we view media and vice versa

6. Being or becoming literate affirms that people use their individual skills, beliefs and experiences to construct their own meanings from media messages, reflect on the meaning of those messages, how those meanings relate to their values and clarify their perspectives on a healthy and productive life.

Instructional suggestions

  • Examine a media campaign specifically targeted at a different demographic. Ask what they get from the message? How much of what they understand comes from their own experience or beliefs? How might different audiences interpret it differently?


Bias is an opinion, usually not based on fact or reasonable experiences, that is in favor of or against one idea, thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

The word bias is often combined with other words to suggest a type, cause or origin of a bias. Words such as: conscious or unconscious bias, and cognitive bias try to distinguish between biases involved with decisions made spontaneously or unconsciously or reflexive. Cognitive bias being decisions made with a systematic pattern of deviation from a sound logical decision in judgment.

Prejudice is sometimes used to describe repeated biases when choosing one thing over another. Prejudice influenced by experience, judgment, social situations, assumptions, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, educational background, opinions, and more.

Being unbiased is required in critical thinking to understand how we think and reason, both critically and emotionally, the influences the environment and others have on our thought process, perceptions, and judgments.

Scientific methods which includes critical thinking about anything with its methods of logic and rationality to identify bias and distortion. It is still the best tools we have to minimize cognitive biases and appreciate and develop logical analysis. However, we haven’t done a very good job of spreading this idea.

So how is the brain susceptible to bias?

Examples of how the brian is wired to be bias

Individuals create their own subjective reality from their perception of the input. An individual's construction of reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behavior in the world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality. And once an image or idea gets into a brain it will stay there and its influence will vary. Thus, Bias can influence forever if you let it.

Another example is the brain generally makes binary connections like: ideas as cause and effect, ideas as related or not related, objects as good or bad or black and white. Grey and variation are not common easily understood.

Binary bias (Adam Grant) is the tendancy to collapse shades of gray spectrums into two (black and white) categories or possibilities. As the brain works on contrasts, it usually prefers (either - or) rather than (either - and); one thing or another; not both. The brain takes two ideas, as binary, and constructs a narrative to connect them causally, which sets us up to being wrong in many ways, such as, flawed reasoning and stereotyping.

We overvalue fear. Ar fear or risk aversive and avoid negative consequences. For example. Under similar probabilities people will bet more often not to lose money than to gain the same amount.

The brain seeks to confirmation what it knows. It will focus on what it knows as the one conclusion, seek evidence to support it, and ignore contradictory evidence. It is hard to accept that we, or our thought process, is wrong. Stuck in a rut.


  1. Target driven bias - subconsciously working backward from a known conclusion by fitting the evidence to the conclusion. Like shooting an arrow and drawing the target around the arrow.
  2. Social bias will favor anyone like us. Don’t want to stop the oxytocin.
  3. Availability bias will recall familiar information to support an idea. It is a function of what is most easily accessed in our memories which are most easily influenced by emotions.
  4. Emotion bias impacts perception, thinking,
  5. Ancient long term practice tradition, folklore, conforming, …
    Money, authority, expert
  6. Worldview bias - world is fair, not fair, …
  7. Bias blind believe you or others are less bias.
  8. Courtesy bias want to be nice, politically correct …
  9. Default bias or effect - favor the default over other choices. Select paper or electronic …
  10. Past bias favor past over future
  11. DeWaal effect overvalue human capacities and undervalue animal ones.
  12. Dunning-Kruger effect unskilled overestimate their abilities and experts underestimate theirs
  13. Exaggerate expectations bias
  14. Over estimate bias give one variable or aspect more weight than another, without sufficient reason.
  15. Time bias - value present over past. Value the usual or normal. Value what is different or not known over known.
  16. Simplicity bias is when we over value simplicity,
  17. Certainty bias choose certainty because it is clearer as opposed to probabilities, which are uncertain.
  18. Anchoring focus on the first price or product mentioned. Social security numbers
  19. Bias cascade - when bias flows from one conclusion to another. Using a biased tool to measure in several investigations.
  20. Bias snowball - one person’s bias is communicated to another person who accepts as accurate and communicates it to another.
  21. Bias blind spot - think others are biased, but you are not.
  22. Expert immunity - think an expert is objective and not susceptible to bias.
  23. Illusion of control - think a person is aware of bias and will overcome it with self-control. Or just the. Illusion being in control. Or overconfident.
  24. Bad apples - think bias is an incompetence or bad personal characteristic.
  25. Technological protection - think using technology removes bias.
  26. Halo effect - Pygmalion effect - think good become good.
  27. Story or framing the context can be more convincing than isolated information. Also the way the information is framed as in fake news …
  28. Gambler’s fallacy idea past probabilities effect future events. Hot hand fallacy.
  29. Groupthink. Group cohesion leads to poor decision making.
  30. Hindsight bias. Think past events were more predictable than at the time they were happening
  31. Hostile bias think people have a hostile intent despite little evidence to support it.
  32. Hyperbolic discounting is preferring immediate payoff rather than later payoffs.
  33. Illusion of control is overestimating the amount of influence you have on events.
  34. Illusion of validity believe our judgments are accurate despite available evidence.
  35. Illusion of correlation is thinking there is a relationship between two unrelated variables or events.
  36. Illusion of truth believe a statement is true when it is easier to understand or has been stated many times independent of reality.
  37. Interoceptive bias trust senses and emotions more than external reality.
  38. Venture bias justify putting more resources into a project because of previous investments.
  39. Negative bias we tend to recall negative memories more than positive.
  40. Neglect probability
  41. Normal bias - never happened so why now? Climate change?
  42. Optimism bias - believe positive is more likely
  43. Pessimism bias believe negative is more likely
  44. Planning fallacy tend to under predict the time it takes to plan.
  45. Post purchase bias convince yourself it was a good deal.
  46. Resent bias - tend to favor now and the way things are done. See weakness in innovation and prefer present thoughts, values, and materials.
  47. New bias think new is better
  48. Resistance bias do the opposite of what people ask you to do. Or Devalue their ideas.
  49. Believe if something is are to you it is new to everyone.
  50. Regressive bias exaggerate high values and minimize low values and probabilities.
  51. Restraint bias overstate your ability to resist temptation
  52. Social bias over or under estimate value social situations and interactions
  53. Reality bias believe the way we see reality is real.
  54. Original thought - connect information for yourself and want to believe your ideas are that good.
  55. Sampling bias - small samples may have a disproportional high or low rate. Testing drugs. If there happens to be two cases of say kidney cancer in a sample group, it will skew the results.
  56. Sunk cost fallacy - strong desire to keep at something instead of cutting your loses. May be based on wanting to limit waste (time and resources invested).

See reasoning & proof

Bias samples

Examples of bias or stereotypes.

Caste system:

  • Very low SES = homeless & very poor;
  • Low SES - just above the poverty level suffer with poor nutrition, health, & education;
  • Middle class - enough money to afford housing and basic western living with occasional pleasures.
  • Upper middle class - enjoy pretty much what they desire without financial stress;
  • Ruling elite - have most of the money and power.

Believe in equality in the U.S.

Western culture is defined by independent outcomes: we are awesome, we can become anything we want, we can master a few key behaviors to be successful to find wealth, and happiness to be fully independent and contribute to society.

Eastern culture isomer internal measures: who you are, virtue, value of life struggles, adaptation, persistence and development of self and others.

Social injustice stems from bias

Examples of bias in the legal system

  • Offering plea deals to people who didn’t commit a crime to get a shorter sentence because they can’t afford legal representation. Or won’t get a fair trial, because the bias of the jury for BIPOC,
  • Would you take a plea deal of three years, out in two or go to trial and lose, and get 30 years.
  • Won’t pursue legal action against rich, because the cost of the trial and appeals will drain resources from the district attorney.
  • Judges sentencing gets more harsh the more tired and hungry they get.
  • Unattractive people get longer sentences than attractive ones.
  • The way a defendant sits, clothes, body language all contribute to results.
  • Juries who don’t see or hear testimony, ut see it in writing are les biased.
  • Memory can change.
  • Consultants make good money by coaching lawyers how to act in court.



  • Media – any tool or technology used for sending and/or receiving messages.
  • Mass Media – any tool or technology used for sending messages from a central source to many receivers; usually only one-way communication is possible.
  • Media message – any information sent via media; could be words, pictures, sounds – or multimedia.


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