Sister blog of Physicists of the Caribbean in which I babble about non-astronomy stuff, because everyone needs a hobby

Monday, 23 April 2018

People who think they know the answer are worse at confirmation bias

People doing badly at self-examination is nothing new, but this little snippet intrigued me :

Belief-superior people were significantly more likely than their modest peers to choose information that supported their beliefs. Furthermore, they were aware that they were seeking out biased information: when the researchers asked them what type of articles they had chosen, they readily admitted their bias for articles that supported their own beliefs.

"We thought that if belief-superior people showed a tendency to seek out a balanced set of information, they might be able to claim that they arrived at their belief superiority through reasoned, critical thinking about both sides of the issue," Hall says. Instead, researchers found that these individuals strongly preferred information that supported their views, indicating that they were probably missing out on opportunities to improve their knowledge.

"Having your beliefs validated feels good, whereas having your beliefs challenged creates discomfort, and this discomfort generally increases when your beliefs are strongly held and important to you," says study coauthor Kaitlin Raimi, assistant professor of public policy.

It's nothing revolutionary, but it's nice to try and quantify the correlation between poor self-evaluation and poor self-selection of information sources. Plato's wise woman again : "If you don't think you need anything, of course you won't want what you don't think you need." Those are are worse at self-evaluation are also worse at challenging their own viewpoints. Maybe the underling variable is curiosity (as has been suggested elsewhere but I don't have time to go link hunting right now), sheer stupidity, or a combination of both.

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