Forms of discrimination

November 2, 2009

Discrimination, per se, is the act of not giving a person, item, event or group (or more) respect. It can take the form of outright disdain and snubbing to the more subtle act of exclusion.

We have laws in place to help control discrimination in the workplace and we have societal norms to protect us from discrimination in other realms. That said, it’s not always that easy.

As humans, we can be predisposed to enjoy foods, occasions, even people, more than we do other options open to us. In fact, the terms discriminating shopper or discriminating audience are positive ones.

And because our minds aren’t open for all the world to see, we can nurture some of our choices/discriminating actions without repercussions or explanation. Like the person who created this breakfast poll. Only three choices are listed when clearly there were other options during the meal. And worse, no write-in option for people who didn’t have eggs, pancakes or french toast.


One of the best examples of discrimination takes place during the act of statistics gathering. Ask anyone who creates a survey or poll how many write-ins they get back on average when there are open questions. The answers will astound you. Unless a query has a finite number of answers or is simply yes or no, there’s always the chance a respondent might have an answer you didn’t anticipate.

Take for example a poll about animal names. When we were trying to name our cats, we crowdsourced the naming process and came up with a poll that had nearly 30 names on it. Guess what?! The cats ended up with names that were written in instead of any of the options provided to the voters. Crazy, huh?

At least we anticipated the possibility of write-ins. Some groups don’t even think of that option and leave respondents frustrated with no way to share their true feelings or votes with poll organizers. Some examples include online questionnaires from hotels or restaurants, follow-up polls from event organizers, and even post-purchase questions from businesses.

What situation have you encountered lately that might have benefited from a write-in box? I’d give you a few choices, but I’m human and would surely overlook something. Just write in your comments on this post.

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