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polarization

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Don't Believe Everything You Think

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Confirmation bias is a well-known phenomenon: we have a tendency to seek out information that supports our pre-existing views and to discount that which does not.

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A new research paper adds even more insight into how fickle our brains are. Thomas Kelly, at Princeton University, writes about belief polarization and points out that the timing of when we learn something matters:

“What I believe depends on the temporal order in which I encounter two opposing pieces of evidence. Thus, I can end up with diametrically opposed views, despite having been exposed to the same evidence. The only difference is the order in which I received it.”

Our thinking is much more fallible than we like to believe. A good antidote is to have more humility about our own views and more curiosity about opposing ones. We will gain a more complex and nuanced understanding of an issue, and in the long run, this will likely lead to more viable and inclusive solutions to persistent challenges.

Kelly’s paper is worth reading. It was forwarded to me by Brian Ziv, who has summarized some of Kelly’s arguments in the July newsletter. Thanks, Brian! Subscribe here to read the full newsletter.

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Copyright © 2019 Sharon V. Kristjanson. All rights reserved.

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