CONFIRMATION BIAS

See discussion requirements under Week 1 discussion above.

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CONFIRMATION BIAS

I regretfully apologize for the extended instruction, but I could not avoid it! And please watch the Movie Moments, too!
The absolute biggest obstacle to critical thinking is ‘confirmation bias.’

There are many definitions and most mention the searching for information confirming our beliefs: you must know that that is not intentional – most often not even conscious! We are, by and large, unaware of being biased.

There are many errors we commit during even one single day. ‘Why the errors,’ you may ask, and the short answer is that we (have to) use shortcuts when we form opinions because it would be impossible to research and study each and every decision, judgment, and opinion before we form them — and that would be most of the time unnecessary anyway.

The most serious errors in thinking we tend to commit are usually due to ‘confirmation bias.’ If people would not be biased they could come to an agreement or a compromise after careful deliberations, considering that that would be in their best interest — but it rarely happens: from big government vs. small government to term limits to ‘who is “the” racist’ (as if it could be only one group), affirmative action, the death penalty, abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, drug laws, republicans versus democrats, liberals vs. conservatives, labor unions, taxes, health care law, gun control, animal rights, ‘vaccination issues,’ ‘a women’s place is in the kitchen’ (or not!), jobless benefits, environmental protection, wars, education, evolution, school prayer, police powers, ‘living wages,’ drinking age, alternative medicine, GMOs (genetically modified crops), speed limit, government data collection… just to name a few.

The basis of conflict often is the subjective nature of our decisions. Disagreements, disputes, screaming matches, physical fights, lawsuits, and war between nations are all there to prove in a very real and painful way that at least one party must be wrong in each conflict/disagreement while strongly believing just the opposite (but in most cases, both are — even if not always equally. How can that happen?

Our book mentions cognitive bias and discusses actual examples of it in various chapters (briefly and well): Pgs. 6, 102-104, 109, 110, 116, 123, 145, 312-314, and 348-349, but it does not define it clearly.

Confirmation bias is the UNCONSCIOUS tendency to confirm our already existing leanings, propensities, beliefs, and prejudices, or hasty decisions.

We are not only ignorant of our biases but are also often unable to recognize them even when they are pointed out to us! We will rather believe that those who call us biased are biased, mistaken, and/or malicious (please check out fundamental attribution error’).

We often commit the following errors related to confirmation bias:
Selective scrutiny: accepting data/argument without much scrutiny from sources or for proposals we like but with much scrutiny from the ones we do not like (example: buying a new car)

Selective recall: remembering events that support our opinion and not those that contradict it

Pattern seeking: seeing ‘proof’ that ‘something is going on’ because of certain ‘mysterious’ coincidences (see Movie Moment #1).

Affirming the question: when people are asked if they are happy with their social life, almost 70% would answer yes and about 20% no, but if the question is asked the other way, asking them if they are unhappy with their social life, then approx. 70% would respond yes to that question as well (in each instance, people think about reasons they may be happy — or unhappy — and find enough reasons to say, yes, they are.

Avoiding cognitive dissonance: accepting certain ideas because they are consistent with our existing worldview/opinion or rejecting others because they are not — instead of working through the issues themselves (which can be very difficult and/or unsettling)

Demanding ‘yes or no answers:’ (seeing in black and white) being convinced that there must be absolutely good solutions, perfect (or perfectly rotten) people, or believing that someone who ‘opposes’ a ‘bad’ person is necessarily a ‘good’ person (as if we have never heard of gangs warring over turf, killing each other, for example). We often justify our (faulty) judgment by pointing out that the alternative is less than perfect as well.

The above issues are but the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, when it comes to confirmation bias (yes, there is an enormous amount of research about it).

YOUR ASSIGNMENT

Please read the pages in the book on confirmation bias and research it on the internet — and then, please describe an occasion that happened lately when you caught yourselffalling into confirmation bias but after all ended up correcting yourself. Please do not forget: lying, cheating, consciously twisting the facts or torturing reasoning are NOT confirmation bias (they are just not the best behavior); however, strongly and often passionately believing that we are correct when all the evidence contradicting it is in front of our nose is the consequence of confirmation bias.

Part 1– Your initial post: State your answers backed by the evidence you found. This ‘initial post’ has to be at least 300 words and is due by midnight on Wednesday.
Part 2– Your response to two students: These comments have to be at least 200 words and are due on two different days before the end of Sunday

To post to the discussion, click on title, then Create Thread.

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