Windsor police officer Joe Guttierez addresses Caron Nazario after their infamous confrontation. Presumed racist until proven innocent.
by James A. Bacon
People believe what they want to believe. They seek information that affirms their worldview, and they downplay or ignore evidence that conflicts with it. Psychologists have term for this proclivity: “confirmation bias.”
Confirmation bias is extremely well documented in the psychological literature. Everyone falls prey to it. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. It doesn’t matter how well educated you are. Indeed, the higher a person’s IQ and education level, the more adept one is at explaining away data that does not conform with his or her beliefs.
As a facet of human nature, confirmation bias has been with us always. But the rise of social media and cable news has compounded the problem by making it easier than ever for people to find views and facts they find comfortable and to not only dispel disconcerting information but to avoid even hearing it in the first place.
The scholars, journalists, artists, and politicians who dominate the cultural discourse in the United States are prone to confirmation bias like everyone else. But their views carry more weight because they control most of the news media, social media platforms, book publishers, academia, social-scientific research, television, movies, museums, nonprofit advocacy groups, and increasingly, K-12 schools. To the extent that there is no escaping the anecdotal facts and images that they highlight and project as reality, their confirmation biases become society’s confirmation biases. Their narratives become society’s narratives. Continue reading