Studies show why we can't all just can't get along! Are you biased?

Studies show why we can’t all just can’t get along! Are you biased?

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Did you ever hate going to school every day because of the workload? I did. Term papers, thesis’, analysis, persuasive, compare and contrast essays galore. I now understand and appreciate the citation system. The internet is so riddled with misinformation that numerous studies show how many people will do whatever it takes to support their view even against all evidence. When did people forget that an opinion without logic, reason and evidence is just simple prejudice?

 

Troy Campbell and Justin Friesan concluded in their research published in Scientific America that many people are guilty of finding “a slippery way by which people get away from facts that contradict their beliefs. Of course, sometimes people just dispute the validity of specific facts. But we find that people sometimes go one step further and, as in the opening example, they reframe an issue in untestable ways. This makes potential important facts and science ultimately irrelevant to the issue.” (1). In layman terms, most people will take the argument far past fact to support bias.

 

 

“Have an opinion. Elaborate.” / SML. by See-ming Lee 李思明 SML, on Flickr
“Have an opinion. Elaborate.” / SML.” (CC BY 2.0) by  See-ming Lee 李思明 SML 

 

 Other studies such as this one, Co-authored by Steven Hoffman, Ph.D. conclude “Our data shows substantial support for a cognitive theory known as ‘motivated reasoning,’ which suggests that rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe” (2). Also, this study by Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University was able to show using an MRI, that during most political discussions the part of the brain that activates during reasoning was nonexistent while the emotional part was constantly activated (3).

 

The above can be seen in conspiracy theories such as Anti-Vaccine, flat earth, masturbation causes blindness, Bigfoot among others. While questioning and doing your research is okay, calling something wrong without evidence, or making up facts to support your bias is just straight unethical. We all have biases and that is fine, but trying to deceive others to validate our prejudices is not. People fail to realize that their opinion is n=1. Statistics are about probability, not absolute certainty.

 

One reason for this phenomenon is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is defined as the tendency of our brains to accept and look for facts (false facts) that conform to our ideologies. If you want it to be true, you will find a way to make it true. (4). I have seen this in many online debates where a person will either cite only one source and consider that absolute truth or literally take a phrase out of context that conflicts with the author’s own conclusions. I have had people unknowingly quote the same source as I (only using half the definition) while trying to refute me. If you only read the introduction and the conclusion to each of your sources, you have no business defending the argument.

 

Another reason could be accountability. Is it easier to defend an argument and have the gullible defend you than admit you’re wrong and be scolded? Would a professional such as doctor risk admitting possible guilt and subject himself to dwindling profits, lawsuits, and public scrutiny? Lost profits is a big one. Would a person or company admit they have an inferior product or promote it in a way it is still relevant?

 

This study shows how a false rumor takes 6x longer to be debunked than a true one to be collaborated. The authors noted that “highly reputable users such as news organizations tend to support rumors, irrespective of them being eventually confirmed or debunked, tweet with certainty and provide evidence within their tweets” (5). A journalist named John Bohannon proved the above by putting out a false rumor about chocolate and weight loss. The science around it was so shoddy and junky that no media outlet worth a dime should have published it but many did and readers believed it.

 

Now do we blame the journalist, the news outlet, or the people for this unethical behavior? The media should be held to a higher standard but businesses follow the demand and it seems that this incoherent dribble is in. I always chuckle when I see an educational video get a few thousand views, yet stupid media propaganda gets millions.

 

 

 

 

(1) Troy Campbell, J. (2016). Why People “Fly from Facts”. Scientific American. Retrieved 30 July 2016, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-people-fly-from-facts/

(2) How We Support Our False Beliefs. (2016).ScienceDaily. Retrieved 30 July 2016, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090821135020.htm

(3) The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation (Book Review). (2016).http://www.apadivisions.org. Retrieved 30 July 2016, from http://www.apadivisions.org/division-39/publications/reviews/political.aspx

(4) What Is Confirmation Bias? . (2016).Psychology Today. Retrieved 31 July 2016, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/science-choice/201504/what-is-confirmation-bias

(5) (2016). Arxiv.org. Retrieved 31 July 2016, from http://arxiv.org/pdf/1511.07487.pdf

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