Confirmation bias refers to a phenomenon that makes us to seek out evidence, and only that evidence, which supports what we believe in. So, if we do not believe in climate change, we will seek out scientific studies that support our belief, even if they disagree with what a majority of scientists agree on. Thanks to our ability to search the vast amount of knowledge that exists out there, it is very easy to find what we want to see. Such propensity and ability to find one-sided evidence makes us harden our position, once we have made up our mind.
Overcoming confirmation bias is a difficult task. We tend to blame others of suffering from it, while they may feel the same way about us. They will tell us, the “liberals” or “progressives” or whatever label they decide to bestow on us, that we tend to just listen to the liberal outlets and ignore those that do not support the conservative views.
That is true. I do not watch Fox News and tend to ignore what the Heritage Foundation may say. I read New York Times and laugh with them at the Conservative politicians. On Facebook, I am friends with people holding similar views and stop following those who do not.
So, how do I cure myself of my bias? Should I pay more attention to the other side and be willing to change my position on issues?
This is a real challenge.
Personally, the other side has to meet certain requirements before I listen to them. The argument needs to be rational not ideological or theological. I am too much of a scientist or an engineer to have it otherwise. That means I just cannot watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh. Give me a more rational news source.
Second, by the same token, I have to feel that the position I hold has stopped being rational. It is hard for me, just like most people, to accept that I am wrong, but I am willing to do that.
Third, the person making argument has to recognize that my position has some merits too. It is just that my thinking has led me to a different conclusion. The last point is what I need to work on because that is what people holding the other position would want me to do.
Confirmation bias is a phenomenon that is capable of tearing a society apart, and we need to address it. Starting with us.