Bias is something all people have one way or another. In this day and age, it is more prevalent than ever because of our exposure and easy access to the internet and media.
Bias, specifically cognitive biases, inevitably effect our beliefs and decision making. Cognitive bias is the limitation in our thinking, for we have a tendency to think in a certain way, which leads to flaws in judgment and rationale. There are many different aspects that contribute to this phenomenon. Some terms that contribute to cognitive bias are confirmation bias (where we selectively pay attention, search for, and remember information that supports our pre-existing beliefs), non-confirmation bias (where we selectively ignore evidence that contradicts our pre-existing beliefs), belief bias (which predisposes us to accept that which is consistent with our pre-existing beliefs), and belief perseverance (maintaining a belief despite new information that firmly contradicts it). There are many more terms related to cognitive bias that appear in the graphic below.
The internet provides the perfect opportunity for people to learn information that fits into their belief bias. A simple google search that appeals to what you may already believe will further provide you with information supporting your pre-existing belief, i.e. utilizing confirmation bias. When presented with information that contradicts one’s beliefs, it can easily be overlooked. The images below show how searches about “global warming” can vary drastically based on the nature of the search.
The problem with confirmation bias and non-confirmation bias is that by feeding only one perspective of an argument, we are not giving ourselves an opportunity to fully understand all sides of it, and we may be missing valuable information. Even more troubling is belief perseverance, in which we disregard evidence that clearly contradicts our pre-existing beliefs. This makes our views incredibly one sided, and often ignorant.
When actively searching for information related to our beliefs, we tend to stop as soon as we have found the information that we were looking for. This is known as availability heuristic. This is not a good habit to have. One source cannot give you all of the information you need to have a full, developed argument and/or belief. In addition, a source’s credibility is another important element. Following this idea that people do what is most convenient and easily accessible, a great deal of people do not check to see if their sources are credible. In fact, we should not just accept the information we consume, we should question it and look for credibility and support. This is not usually what is done.
President Trump is one who does just this. In fact, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver covered this subject exactly. In many cases, Trump is inconsistent with his information, but in others, he is plain wrong. The question is: where does he get this information? The clip below covers this question.
Overall, cognitive bias is something we should all be aware of so that we can prevent extensive bias, giving us the opportunity to be more well-rounded in our thinking. We should challenge the information that we read and be active in our consumption of information, reading multiple sources and checking for credibility. The internet and media provides us with information, but we choose what to believe and we choose what to consume. Give yourself the opportunity to make good choices by being aware of these cognitive biases.
“List of cognitive biases.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Feb. 2017. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
“How to Ensure You’re (Almost) Always Right.” Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
“20 Cognitive Biases That Affect Your Decisions.” Mental Floss. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
Dvorsky, George. “The 12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational.” Io9. Io9.gizmodo.com, 09 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
“Belief perseverance.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 05 Jan. 2017. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.