Friday, October 21, 2016

Learning to Be Confirmation Unbiased

During the presidential election season, all over social media, people post "evidence" that comes from sources with one political leaning or specific intention. While none are truly unbiased, there are ways to sort through the muck. One great way to manage is to find information that challenges our views. To do that in a fair manner, one should give as much passion and time to seeking out unpleasant information that is opposed to our beliefs and stances as one gives to finding information that supports current beliefs.

If you already lean toward specific ideologies and beliefs, and then only seek circles of information that consistently confirm and never challenge that framework, there's a term for it, "confirmation bias", and chances are, your ideologies and beliefs are shaky, at best. At worst, those beliefs can kill people, when those with such bias are allowed to effect legislation and rules for the rest of us, or when average people decide to allow their biases to affect others' right to life and freedom.

Challenge your comfort zone and welcome others of and in the world to take you out of your personal status quo. Through allowing others to challenge our beliefs, our beliefs are either fortified, adjusted, or they are changed altogether.

It's how we learn and grow. Changing your mind or not being able to make up your mind is not weakness, it is strength. It fortifies and grows the mind to be flexible in thinking. And sometimes, issues are so complex, once we allow more information in, there can be no cut and dry solution or stance, because reductionism marginalizes and trivializes.

Anyone who truly understands an issue can argue for or against that issue with equal fervor and breadth, because they can explain all sides.

It gives us greater ability to be able to protect ourselves against tyranny and injustice when strategizing in a geopolitical sense, in business, or in our personal lives. And when need be, it also adds a sense of humility and compassion to our stances, so we are able to deeply understand the view of our supposed enemy.

So, challenge your mind's comfort and step outside the norm. Take a different path home and see what you find.

1 comment :

  1. There is much merit in what you wrote. Here are a few of my thoughts on that very important and interesting subject. One consideration I would add is that not all information received, regardless of source and perspective, is created equal. Some information is not more than the opinion of an individual based on his/her bias, or lack of information and/or intelligence. So I would say, evaluate any information not only based on real or perceived prejudices of the informant, but also check for what part of the data is verifiably true and what is conjecture or a conclusion reached only partially on facts. Though facts may be right, the conclusion reached from those facts may be wrong. What is very important is to check even factual information for context. Here you often discover that additional facts which would offer a totally different meaning were excluded, or unsupported and other times indefensible opinions were added that negate the conclusion reached as part of that information.
    As you alluded, most people live in a bubble where the great majority of their subculture share their perspective. Left-wing liberal-oriented academia or right-wing conservative groups would be examples. Being surrounded by people who see the world through your eyes may produce psychological comfort but, as you pointed out, does not enhance a search for truth. When holding strong views, it is imperative to have listened to articulate spokespeople that share opposing views and have answers that satisfy at least yourself in dealing deal with their objections.
    Of course, the great majority of people are not truth seekers, but seek the comfort of the surrounding herd's opinion. They have neither the ability nor the desire to listen to evidence or perspectives that would challenge their already internalized belief system. Attempting to persuade such individuals through logically reasoned argument will usually fail and result not in converts to a stronger position, but in alienation. With that thought in mind, I believe it always prudent to distinguish between the few truth seekers among your friends and those who embrace their belief with religious faith. Most importantly, always remember that you can't reason a person out of a position that reason did not get him/her into. Just make sure that you're not that person.
    Reno d.