This morning on my way to work I heard another report on fake news. The gist of the report was that some groups of people felt it effected public opinion to a great extent and others felt it was not that big a deal. Some groups (I am avoiding naming particular political groups) felt they could easily spot fake news, others not so much. This drew my thoughts to confirmation bias, the insidious and powerful filter in our lives that helps us organize our thoughts, but leaves us seeing less clearly than we think we are.
Confirmation bias is the hard default of our brain that causes us to see what we expect to see and to ignore information that we do not expect to see. I say hard default, because it is impossible to change this tendency no matter how much we know it is present, and how hard we try. We can push against it, but it is forever paddling upstream. Granted, some do not even try to push against it and drift blithely downstream, while others fight with some tenacity.
I noticed a non-relational example recently. Michael Lewis in his book The Undoing Project talks about this in relation to scouting and choosing NBA (or any) draft picks. He tells how Daryl Morey, a sports analytics practitioner, observed that scouts would look at a player and form an almost instant impression of them. After that, the things the player did that confirmed the impression were noted, and the things that did not support the impression went unnoticed. None of this was conscious, their assessment process felt objective to the scouts. Factors that affected this impression were things like:
--reminding the scout of a current Most Valuable Player due to size, build, racial characteristics, mannerisms.
--reminding the scouts of themselves when they were younger, and thus favoring their skills.
--physical features such as looking soft, odd, attractive or unattractive.
Consequently, he began to come up with ways to counteract this powerful but ghost-like force in order to select the best players more accurately. He came up with rules such as "you can never compare a player to someone of the same race". That means if there is a black person trying out, you can not say, "he reminds me of Michael Jordan". You can say regarding an asian player, "he reminds me of Michael Jordan". What he found in the end was that people completely stopped making comparisons because they did not fit so easily cross racially.
If people are going to this much effort to select sports players accurately, it makes sense to put effort into living well with the people around us and swim upstream if necessary to counteract our biases. At this point I do not have any rules to impart, but I do want to raise awareness and encourage you to assess your own biases
I have listed below some factors that could potentially effect the way you "hear" someone. So the question is: How do these things effect the way you view what this person says, or are these things irrelevant? Or, do you feel like some of these things have good reason to impact how you view what someone says?
The kind of car one drives
type of employment or unemployment
how organized the person is
how loud or withdrawn a person is
religion and the level of priority placed on religion including atheism
where they went to school
body piercings or art
feel free to add to the list, this is just a start.
I am going to leave this as a "food for thought" blog, but I would love to hear any input you may have regarding this.
Speaking of streams, it's Interesting where a news story can take ones thoughts.