How Do You Separate Fact from Opinion?

According to Webster's Dictionary a fact is "anything that is done or happens; anything actually existent; any statement strictly true; truth; reality."

Three examples of facts that are concrete and that could be documented include:

An opinion is defined as "indicating a belief, view, sentiment, conception."

Obvious indicators of opinion are sentences that include words such as:

The three facts above can be changed to opinions by adding a belief or point of view. For example: Sometimes it is difficult to identify facts and opinions. For example, is the following a fact or an opinion? This is an opinion, but you have to know that eloquent is a descriptive word to for this to become clear. Descriptive words are subjective, or state someone's opinion.  How to separate fact and opinion may be unclear when many people hold the same opinion. This is when it becomes important to understand what the word bias means.

A bias is an opinion or an attitude we have for or against something. A bias usually stems from feelings rather than from rational thought. What is very important to realize is that ALL of us are biased. We are biased for or against certain people, activities, and ideas. We become negatively biased because certain people, activities, or ideas do not appeal to us at some level. It is important to realize that we have "good biases" as well; that is, we favor certain people, activities, or ideas. In these cases, our biases are still irrational, just as is the case with our negative biases.

Most of the time we keep our biases inside and use them to decide who to vote for, what to study in school, and how we want to appear in public. Other times, however, people can let their bias or opinions guide them to do dangerous acts. Issues such as racism, gun control, abortion,  animal rights, free trade, nuclear power, and patriotism provoke many people to act on their biases and do things that harm others. As long as biases are peacefully shared, there is little harm. But, when they are uncontrolled, strong biases can bring out anger and create hatred toward those who disagree. That is when differences between facts and opinions become very important and present challenges to everyone involved.

Many of our biases are not based on fact or reasoned judgment but on opinions handed down to us by parents, teachers, and friends. Unfortunately, we don't always take the time to examine the source of our biases, and many of us carry opinions and prejudices because of it.

Below is a list of incomplete sentences. Complete each one with the first word that comes to mind. Don't stop to evaluate what you write or change your first response. If you can't think of a word or phrase, skip it and go on to the next sentence.

Teachers are ___________________________________________.
Mothers are ____________________________________________.
Democrats are __________________________________________.
Communists are _________________________________________.
Babies are ______________________________________________.
Welfare recipients are _____________________________________.
Elderly people are ________________________________________.
Protestants are ___________________________________________.
My neighbors are _________________________________________.
Republicans are __________________________________________.
Lawyers are _____________________________________________.
Girl Scouts are ___________________________________________.
Football players are _______________________________________.
Jewish people are _________________________________________.

Reread what your answers. How many are based on facts and which are based on opinions? Can you tell? Do you ever wonder where you formed your biases?

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