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How to avoid Confirmation Bias

17 Dec

Just what IS confirmation bias?  In short, it’s drawing a conclusion that you WANT, by overlooking some evidence to the contrary or picking and choosing partial evidence to support or bolster your predetermined view.

My husband surprised me last week when he acknowledged his own confirmation bias regarding the verdict of ‘not guilty’ in the trial of illegal immigrant Jose Zarate, accused of 1st degree (intentional) murder.  Mike, in fact, changed his mind after reading a report written by an alternate juror.  This citizen performed his civic duty by sitting through all the testimony and lawyer presentations for the two sides.  After the verdict, he then discussed with several jurors the verdict-arrival process the sequestered group had followed.  He concluded that the jury had indeed arrived at the correct decision because the alleged murderer had NOT in fact premeditated the shooting of Kate Steinle.

Dear clear thinking, rational friends: We must hold on to a commitment to the truth.  We must focus on ALL the evidence and follow it, even if it leads us to a judgment we don’t like.  Isn’t that why this bronze statue was cast?

Justice is blind

We Americans hold that justice is blind.  Surely we must apply that restraint to our biases and cherished pet beliefs when we are called to make a fair and impartial decision.

Again, I say, ‘Well done, Michael!’  Now may I be equally willing to embrace such fairness and evenhandedness as my husband.  After all, doing so would only be following our Father’s lead as described by the prophet Jeremiah:

……..I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:24b)

Fly-by Sound Bytes

24 Sep

I shouldn’t be surprised.  After all, our son who posts ‘how-to-record-music’ instructional videos on YouTube has stopped checking viewer comments.  People leave hurtful, derogatory, and often unfounded remarks.  What could be so controversial about the music recording industry!?

My husband reports on tech innovation for a national news organization.  He spends hours researching, interviewing, and writing about interesting and new products, services, trends, and industries related to technology.

The other day he held a two-way radio conversation with one of the program hosts bringing her and listeners up to date on thorium, a chemical element that can efficiently and safely power a nuclear reactor.  The 8-10 minute segment was a follow-up to one that aired two years ago in which he interviewed a former NASA engineer about thorium reactors.

Within 6-8 hours of the most recent radio program, a listener had fired off a feedback email.   Invective and name-calling combined to shame the program and the tech reporter.

However, the dissatisfied letter-writer offered nothing of substance.  The editor of the news program responded to the email politely asking for specifics and initially getting no response. Eventually, he did write a detailed rebuttal with some reasons for his sharp reaction.

When my husband analyzed each point, he saw clearly that the listener had misinterpreted much of the report.

How can that happen?

Actually, it’s not all that unusual.  Have you ever heard of confirmation bias?

Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

 Confirmation bias…… is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs.

As logical Joes and Janes, we must give people the benefit of the doubt before we jump to a conclusion.  I admit that I have leapt to hasty judgments because I have wanted to think the WORST about someone and their viewpoint.  Not only is that unfair, it is unkind.

So, dear friends, let us be generous and ask questions before we leap to conclusions and criticize.  And never is there an appropriate occasion to unload a putdown on someone. Take issue with the point, not the person.