11

Excuse the phrasing of the question, but I'm not sure how to put it.

Example:

Let's say we know for a fact that Smith is working as a police officer and that police officers have very small salaries. We also know that this causes Smith to lead a lesser life than if police officers were to have larger salaries. When we ask Smith if the government should lower salaries for police officers and raise salaries for firemen, he replies that they should.

Question

I don't think it's correct to say that Smith is unbiased in this scenario, but to say he is biased is misleading. If I were to tell someone that Smith thinks the government should lower police salaries and raise firemen salaries and that Smith is biased, the conclusion would probably be that Smith is a fireman.

So, what is Smith?

3
  • Some more informal terms and phrases -- Smith is contrary, he goes against the grain, he goes against the flow.
    – JAM
    Oct 2, 2012 at 16:19
  • Assuming Smith is by implication average, if lives and works in London, as a policeman, his average pay is £45,534. I'm not sure exactly, but as a fireman he'd probably get barely half that. He might be biased towards egalitarianism, and thus think he's overpaid, but you don't often come across public servants who freely admit they're overpaid. Oct 2, 2012 at 16:38
  • If he lives or works in the US, his starting salary as a police officer (patrol) would be around $29,000, while a fire fighter averages slightly less at $28,000. It varies by jurisdiction, of course. And while I agree that you don't often come across public servants who admit they're overpaid, you often run across those who complain that their coworkers or bosses are overpaid. Oct 2, 2012 at 18:32

6 Answers 6

11

He is speaking against his interest. In legalese, you'll also hear against interest with no possessive – for example, a declaration against interest is a statement that is (as Wikipedia puts it) “so prejudicial to the person making it that she would not have made the statement unless she believed the statement was true” – but in normal-person English I think the version with the possessive is superior.

6

I would say that Smith is objective. He is answering the question objectively; that is, he is not letting his personal interest in the matter sway his opinion.

objective (adj.) based only on facts and not influenced by personal feelings or beliefs; undistorted by emotion or personal bias.

interest (n.) a connection with something that influences your attitude or behavior because you can gain an advantage from it


(Definitions supplied from OneLook.com)

2
  • 1
    I think this misses the question. The asker seems to be looking for a word that means "biased, but in the opposite direction than what you'd expect". That is, biased against their own kind or their own interest.
    – John Y
    Oct 2, 2012 at 21:26
  • 3
    @JohnY: Perhaps so. Then again, O.P. also said, "I'm not sure how to put it," and then concluded with, "So, what is Smith?" Based on the body of the question (and not putting too much emphasis on the title of the question), I think objective could accurately describe Officer Smith.
    – J.R.
    Oct 2, 2012 at 22:11
6

If Smith is already paid a low wage, for him to approve of having his wage lowered further to allow another (albeit important) public servant to get a pay increase, I would say that he is:

A) radically unbiased B) highly altruistic C) off his nut

5
  • +1 ... you may attract downvotes though for an answer lacking citations.
    – MetaEd
    Oct 2, 2012 at 22:22
  • 1
    I think it would be petty to downvote this answer based on it "lacking citations." All three terms are being used in a straightforward way; no further elaboration is needed. Furthermore, no citation is necessary, as there are no quotes.
    – J.R.
    Oct 2, 2012 at 22:31
  • I disagree. I think further elaboration is needed for off his nuts in relation to a bias one way or another or lack thereof. The answer looks flippant to me. What does off his nut have to do with it?
    – Spare Oom
    Oct 3, 2012 at 1:40
  • 1
    @Spare Oom: clearly answer C "off his nut" (not nuts) is not a serious answer but the scenario was so out of left field that I couldn't resist. I admit to having a bias toward levity - hopefully no harm was done. ;-) Oct 3, 2012 at 2:11
  • 1
    @SpareOom: off his nut simply means crazy; same as off his rocker. In any event, being confused by off his nut might warrant a request for clarification in a comment, more so than a downvote due to a "lack of citations." Moreover, I found the answer very funny, but not flippant; it's not uncommon for people to be characterized thusly when campaigning for something that works against their best interest. The answer is amusing – but also spot on.
    – J.R.
    Oct 3, 2012 at 23:12
6

Smith is an interested party, or has an interest in the situation. See “interest”, sense 4 at OxfordDictionaries.com.

It may still be misinterpreted, but it’s not as misleading as biased.

1

Actually, biased only implies lack of objectivity; it doesn't say which direction the prejudice lies. Sure, we tend to be biased in such a way as to favor ourselves or favor those who are like us, but we don't have to be.

So I would still use bias to describe this. If I had to pick a single word, maybe counterbiased. If that's too "newly coined" for you, then maybe unexpectedly biased or counterintuitively biased or biased against his own interest.

0

I would say Smith is a supporter. He supports the increase in salaries for firemen, although he is not a fireman.

1
  • Can anybody explain the downvote?
    – Noah
    Oct 3, 2012 at 0:09

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