1. Welcome to Religious Forums, a friendly forum to discuss all religions in a friendly surrounding.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Our modern chat room. No add-ons or extensions required, just login and start chatting!
    • Access to private conversations with other members.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Mental Bias:The Confirmation Problem!

Discussion in 'General Debates' started by TashaN, Apr 15, 2011.

  1. TashaN

    TashaN Veteran Member
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2005
    Messages:
    13,497
    Ratings:
    +1,247
    Religion:
    Islam
    Confirmation problem pervade our modern life, since most conflicts have at their root the following mental bias:

    When Arabs and Israelis watch news reports they see different stories in the same succession of events. Likewise, Democrats and Republicans look at different parts of the same data and never converge to same opinions. Once your mind is inhabited with a certain view of the world, you will tend to only consider instances proving you to be right. Paradoxically, the more information you have, the more justified you will feel in your views.

    From:"The Black Swan", by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

    Do you agree, disagree, why?
     
    • Like Like x 1
  2. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2004
    Messages:
    75,317
    Ratings:
    +36,681
    Religion:
    Non-Theistic Mysticism
    I largely agree. Some people appear to take the theory to far, however, by asserting that everyone is equally prone to fall victim to confirmation bias. Of course, it might be an instance of confirmation bias to see everyone as equally prone to fall victim to confirmation bias, for it seems that some people -- such as some scientists -- fall victim to it comparatively less often than do other people. I don't wish to suggest that some people are not as naturally prone to confirmation bias as are other people. But only that, for whatever reason (perhaps their training), some people appear to fall victim to confirmation bias less often than other people.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. sandandfoam

    sandandfoam Veteran Member

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2007
    Messages:
    11,231
    Ratings:
    +1,713
    Perhaps those involved in science are very conformist - but saved by the apparent efficacy of that to which they conform? :D
     
  4. kai

    kai ragamuffin

    Joined:
    May 23, 2006
    Messages:
    16,610
    Ratings:
    +1,147
    Its not only news reports is it, its peer pressure and what the general view is amongst family and friends,How your brought up etc. Its a little hard to not have an influenced opinion on something your exposed to on a regular basis and then seek to confirm that opinion however consciously.
     
  5. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2004
    Messages:
    75,317
    Ratings:
    +36,681
    Religion:
    Non-Theistic Mysticism
    Your thinly disguised reference to American turkey farms has not gone unnoticed by me, Stephen.

    More seriously, I'm not sure I follow you on this one. Would you elaborate, please?
     
    #5 Sunstone, Apr 15, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2011
  6. FlyingTeaPot

    FlyingTeaPot Irrational Rationalist. Educated Fool.

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2010
    Messages:
    2,292
    Ratings:
    +737
    Religion:
    None
    I agree too. That is why I am extra careful to not let my bias creep in and consider the opposition's position as fairly as I can whenever I debate them on controversial issues.
     
  7. Just_me_Mike

    Just_me_Mike Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2009
    Messages:
    8,706
    Ratings:
    +468
    This is naturally what humans do. In my opinion, there is a higher level of being though. It is when we acknowledge our actions as being such, and then challenging ourselves to REALLY test our beliefs, so not to just confirm our current ideology, but to look deep within ourselves, an see if it truly matches what we feel in our heart. Rarely, do I meet people that can rise to this level.

    It is something I strive for daily, but I am sure I fail miserably.
     
  8. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2004
    Messages:
    75,317
    Ratings:
    +36,681
    Religion:
    Non-Theistic Mysticism
    I have examined my record closely, and -- just as I suspected -- I am free of confirmation bias.
     
  9. Mr Spinkles

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2004
    Messages:
    12,676
    Ratings:
    +3,051
    I do agree, because my understanding is that many studies have demonstrated such psychological biases in people.

    The Skeptic's Dictionary has a useful article on the confirmation bias: confirmation bias - The Skeptic's Dictionary - Skepdic.com

    As I understand, research has demonstrated people have three important natural biases: (1) when presented with two conflicting stories, people have a tendency to accept the story they heard first; (2) people are biased to ignore evidence which contradicts their views; and (3) people are biased to notice evidence that affirms, rather than negates, a hypothesis.

    I think if we are mindful of these natural biases that we all have, we can practice critical and objective habits of mind, and we can reach a more objective view of the world.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  10. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2008
    Messages:
    46,687
    Ratings:
    +15,104
    Religion:
    Advocate of letting go of theism. Buddhist with an emphasis on personal understanding.
    It is mostly that the structure they belong to routinely puts them to take the measure of each other, so there is little room for delusions.
     
  11. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2008
    Messages:
    46,687
    Ratings:
    +15,104
    Religion:
    Advocate of letting go of theism. Buddhist with an emphasis on personal understanding.
    Regard the OP, confirmation bias seems to me to be very much real, and largely created by needs of social acceptance and support. The human being is not usually supportive of disagreement.

    It is not so much a mental issue as a social one: people are generally willing to admit their uncertainties initially. Then they learn how difficult it will be for them to live in their own societies if they do.
     
  12. TashaN

    TashaN Veteran Member
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2005
    Messages:
    13,497
    Ratings:
    +1,247
    Religion:
    Islam
    The writer suggest that scientists sometimes fall for it more often than others because they claim to *know* something and that they are *expert* in the field, and they try so hard to find proofs to support these expertise.

    Exactly.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  13. TashaN

    TashaN Veteran Member
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2005
    Messages:
    13,497
    Ratings:
    +1,247
    Religion:
    Islam
    How hard it can be to NOT fall for confirmation bias?
     
  14. TashaN

    TashaN Veteran Member
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2005
    Messages:
    13,497
    Ratings:
    +1,247
    Religion:
    Islam
    The writer suggest it's a personal thing rather than social. He is criticizing those who claim to *know* but they don't. The one you have described which result from peer or social pressure is a totally different issue. The one we are discussing here is rather related to feeling that one knows something more than others without considering the fact that he might be wrong.

    Have you read the book "The Black Swan"? i really recommend it for everybody to read. Heck, i even think it's a must read.
     
  15. TashaN

    TashaN Veteran Member
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2005
    Messages:
    13,497
    Ratings:
    +1,247
    Religion:
    Islam
    Imagine if all people are mindful of these biases, it would be a different world.

    I think it's natural for human beings to ignore these biases. I think even if we were aware of these biases we would still fall for it from a time to another. Even the writer admit that he fell for it numerous times.

    Can we really challenge our bias-prone nature?

    Great link by the way, thank you. It's a great addition to the discussion.
     
  16. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
    Staff Member Premium Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2008
    Messages:
    46,687
    Ratings:
    +15,104
    Religion:
    Advocate of letting go of theism. Buddhist with an emphasis on personal understanding.
    Maybe it is. My gut feeling says otherwise, however.
     
  17. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest I have the kavorka
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2010
    Messages:
    177,839
    Ratings:
    +58,303
    Religion:
    Bokononism & Atheism
    To strive to be cognizant of it is to change it. Despite strident objection to it by some,
    the recognition that facts are only widely shared opinions is a useful view...even if not true.
     
  18. Mr Spinkles

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2004
    Messages:
    12,676
    Ratings:
    +3,051
    I don't think we can completely escape our bias-prone nature ... even if we did escape it completely, it would be impossible to know, because part of being biased is that you are not aware of it.

    But, I do think we can make a lot of progress if we are mindful. The big dilemma in critical thinking is, it is impossible to evaluate every single idea that has ever occurred to anyone, or to consider every piece of data that has ever been recorded. We are forced to make some choices about where to focus our attention, otherwise we will be hopelessly lost in an endless sea of information. On the other hand, by focusing our attention this way, we are in danger of succumbing to our biases, i.e. we will choose to examine the information which we believe will confirm our beliefs.

    Richard Dawkins calls this the problem of trying to "be open minded without letting your brain fall out". We want to be open minded to all relevant, reliable information, but we can't get buried under the irrelevant, unreliable information, to the point where it is impossible to form any conclusions at all.

    So how do we face this dilemma? First, we must focus our attention. If I Google "astrophysics" I will be buried in a mountain of websites. If I buy a telescope and point it in any direction, in any weather conditions, again I will be lost in a sea of meaningless data.

    So the key is to focus on the sources, and the information, which are most likely to prove or disprove a hypothesis; but we want to avoid arbitrarily choosing information that will conform to our biases. For example, suppose my hypothesis is that star A is a red star, not a white star. If I point my telescope at this star primarily during certain times, I should have a good reason for focusing on those times. E.g., I look at the star mostly at night, because the signal is stronger at night. Looking at the star when the signal is stronger will help me prove or disprove my hypothesis, but my choice will not affect the color of the star. Nevertheless, I should try once or twice to look during the daytime. If I can't see anything during the daytime after a few tries, I do not need to continue looking every single day, to prove I am "objective". Thus, largely ignoring half the data (the daytime data) is a defensible choice, it's a focus on relevant data. This choice does not reflect my personal hope, or bias, that the star is red.

    On the other hand, suppose I only show you photographs of the star when it is near the horizon. Couldn't this redden the star a little but, due to the light traveling through the atmosphere, just as the Sun and Moon appear redder when near the horizon? In this case, it would appear a personal choice I have made is influencing the outcome of the experiment. If I chose to look at the star when it is high in the sky, it would appear bluer. Thus, it seems an arbitrary decision on my part (whether a result of my bias or not) is influencing the status of the hypothesis. That's not what we want. We want to eliminate human bias as much as possible.

    This is the fundamental method of science .... we want to prove or disprove hypotheses, and we want the methods to depend as much as possible on Nature, and not human decisions or biases.
    I am glad you liked it! This is a great thread.
     
    #18 Mr Spinkles, Apr 16, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2011
  19. Penumbra

    Penumbra Veteran Member
    Premium Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2010
    Messages:
    14,939
    Ratings:
    +1,440
    I think basically everyone is prone to have confirmation bias, but those who use logic can minimize it rather significantly.
     
Loading...