confirmation bias

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Confirmation Bias: How To Get Out of The Echo Chamber

Feel like sharing your political views on Facebook isn’t doing any good? According to science, you’re probably right

Social Media and Polarization

On Capitol Hill:
January 2015 – July 2017
48% of links to articles by left and right-leaning U.S. news outlets shared by Congress members were mainly linked to by members of their party
Posts by Congress members to Facebook before and after Trump’s inauguration by party

Democrats in Congress share more links to national news
Before Trump’s inauguration: 8%
After Trump’s inauguration: 16%

Republicans in Congress share less links to national news
Before Trump’s inauguration: 9%
After Trump’s inauguration: 8%

Across the Internet:
25% of social media users follow political candidates and figures online
News stories from most liberal and conservative outlets were shared 21% to 22% more than less biased news sources

Shared by more liberal members of congress:
Shared by more conservative members of congress

More Facebook user activity correlates with:
Less variety of news sources
Limited exposure to a few sites
Filtering of unwanted info
Spread of fake news and rumors which motivates or forces major corporations to alter practices

The Role of Internet Giants and Information

Google flags fact-checked information and punishes unsubstantiated news sources
Facebook’s data collection is under fire due to the creation of AI-run neural network profiles of users and manipulating them
Prevalence of echo chambers and filter bubbles
Filter bubble
Algorithmic personalization of search results and news based on search history, site visits, online shopping habits, and social media use

Echo chamber
Homogenous clusters of info which dictate what we see online based on shares, likes, ads, and friends

Signs of being caught in an echo chamber
Distinct community structures and strong polarization
Disappearance of dissenting opinions and disproving facts
Perception of facts and events affected by preconceived notions and emotional narratives
“Shared system of meaning” leads to self-confirmation/validation

The crisis of fact that permeates throughout social media is fueled by one underlying human flaw

Confirmation Bias

What is it?

Our tendency to hunt for and cherry-pick information that confirms our existing beliefs or ideas while ignoring contradicting evidence
Two people with opposing views can feel validated by the same information

Famous Studies
1975 Stanford suicide note legitimacy study
Two groups were given 25 suicide notes and asked to report which were real and which were fake
Psychologists gave one group a fake high score and the other a fake low score
Even after it was revealed that their scores were faked,
High scorers still believed they performed better than average test-takers
Low scorers still believed they performed worse than average test-takers

1979 Stanford capital punishment study
Two groups with opposing views on capital punishment were asked to read two made-up studies
One study gave evidence for effectiveness capital punishment, and one brought it into question
Both groups rated the studies’ credibility in line with prior beliefs
Both groups’ opinions were bolstered and stronger than before study

Confirmation Bias leads to:
Less diversity and quality in online information markets
News feeds are overloaded and users don’t always read high quality stories
Viral spread of misinformation
True, quality content doesn’t go viral as often as fake news that confirms beliefs and is made viral by bots
Higher vulnerability to manipulation
The high volume of info people are bombarded with leads to sharing without fact checking

We can never be fully rid of confirmation bias, but there are things we can do to curb its effect on our thoughts, words, and actions

How To Avoid Confirmation Bias

Practice mindfulness and emotional intelligence

Recognize errors in thinking you make when your emotions are in control

Avoid emotional bias in cognitive processing

Understand another’s viewpoint
Engage in informed and respectful debate
Be skeptical of your own beliefs and open-minded toward opposing viewpoints

Don’t remove friends with opposing views
After the 2016 election, 13% of Americans blocked, unfriended, or unfollowed a friend on social media due to political posts

Of the 13% of Americans:
24% of Democrats
9% of Republicans
9% of Independents

Use good research skills
Take free online or local courses on news literacy
Don’t share a viral story without verifying it
Crosscheck multiple sources and use fact-checking sites such as Snopes, Politifact, and
Get news as directly as possible
Retrace the way news moves to get to you on social media
Don’t trust social media to deliver reliable news

Don’t believe everything you read and don’t read only what you believe―stay curious and open-minded to avoid confirmation bias

confirmation bias