Individuals tend to exercise discretion over the content or distribution of information. This discretion may have an adverse effect on the information that is transmitted. The various means or methods by which discretion is generally exercised are message delay, message modification or filtering, inference or uncertainty absorption, and presentation bias.
Message delay is used for delaying a particular action. It is a method in which the message is delayed so that the action that needs to be taken gets delayed. This is generally done by avoiding information overload, through distortion or inhibition, or by suppressing transmission.
Modification or filtering
Modification or filtering of the message is done in order to modify the data or deliberately hide certain information. The degree to which the message gets distorted because of modification or filtering depends upon the channels of communication and the methods of distribution of information. Organizations should have formal communication channels and procedures in place to avoid distortion by immediate organizational elements. For example, sales personnel could filter information such as customer complaints so that it does not reach their superiors. The sales managers who receive such filtered information then assume that the sales personnel are working properly to the satisfaction of customers.
Inference or uncertainty absorption
Uncertainty absorption is the failure to infer the right message. Inferences made are purely subjective in nature and each person draws his/her own conclusions. Uncertainty absorption can be avoided by people if they rely upon the original message without making any individual inferences or estimates.
The way data is presented could lead to bias. Bias could be intentional or unintentional and good or bad. There are three types of presentation bias namely, bias in order and grouping in presentation, exception selection limits, and selection of graphics layout. Bias in order and grouping takes place as there are numerous ways in which the data can be ordered or arranged. The way in which data is ordered, grouped, and arranged will have an influence on decision-making. In case of exception selection limits, only those items that deviate from the desired result are shown to the decision maker. If the exception limit has not been defined properly, it may mislead the decision maker.
The method of graphical representation uses graphs to represent data diagrammatically for better understanding. However, graphs may induce bias due to four factors: choice of scale, choice of graphs, choice of size, and choice of color. The choice of scale in a graph affects the perception of differences in the trend charts. Perception may be altered depending on the choice of graph or the type of graph used. The choice of size of a graph influences bias when the size of the graphs is reduced and the differences are minimized. The choice of color attracts bias as certain colors among others draw attention. Presentation bias usually occurs due to a poor system design. This can be avoided or rectified by developing a system that has a flexible reporting system.
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