1. Critical Thinker

    Critical Thinker Senior Member

    I am posting this to spur a Meta-level discussion where people can share their experiences in acknowledging and confronting their own biases. Not everyone here has an 'out of the rabbit hole' story, but maybe they have a story to share where they confronted their own intellectual biases.

    We all (myself included) can suffer from biases that result in (wanting to give) giving a pass to misinformation (or sources of misinformation) that align with our politics/opinions/beliefs. As an example I believe that marijuana should be legalized with restrictions similar to those put on alcohol or tobacco. There are plenty of 'Memes' out there that make the claim that Marijuana cures cancer and that the FDA is part of an effort by 'Big Pharma' to suppress the cure in order to profit from selling drugs to fight cancer. My position is that marijuana should be legal, but I am an opponent of bunk even when it is 'favorable' to my side of a debate, so I have spoken out against the unproven claim that marijuana cures cancer in humans. It would be hypocritical to only speak out against bunk that is at odds with my own politics/opinions and to remain silent when the bunk is used to support my side of things.

    Skeptics and debunkers generally are against the spread of misinformation, but can be blind to their own lack of objectivity when it comes to politics, religion and the core beliefs they hold. Taken to an extreme, a person creates an echo chamber (metaphorically speaking) around themselves that dismisses any (sources of) information that conflicts with their core beliefs. Even worse, they will then blindly support a source that spreads misinformation or that spins/cherry picks information based on an ideology they hold. Society and individuals put labels on ourselves and others, creating a division and making distinctions between US and THEM (ie... Conservative vs Liberal, American vs non-American, Debunker vs Conspiracy theorist).

    Something I found to be relevant to the current state of affairs:

    The term 'Tribalism' is defined as:

    "The Oxford Dictionary announced a couple weeks ago that "post-truth" is its 2016 word of the year." There have been stories in the News and threads on Metabunk that consider the reasons for the spread of misinformation in America and society as a whole. It is my thought that part of the problem lies in people's lack of objectivity due to Tribalism and blind loyalty to others in their 'tribe'... even when those others are doing things we criticize others for. If people do not face and confront their own biases, this may result in ignoring or spreading misinformation.

    Thoughts, anecdotes, personal stories...?
    • Like Like x 2
  2. derwoodii

    derwoodii Senior Member

    Thoughts. i try to avoid allowing myself a subjective mind,,, tho guilty of it daily, i can only aspire to do better.

    Personal stories... well just the other day i read a post on MB and looked completely over its intent and aim and i went straight to working an answer for my own bias and mistake,,, which was exactly what the post was about duh...

    Anecdotes.. i do like this powerful explanation and unraveling of knowledge & certainty vs dogma..

    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltjI3BXKBgY

    The ending sequence from episode 11 of Jacob Bronowski's excellent 1973 series, The Ascent Of Man.
    • Like Like x 2
  3. tadaaa

    tadaaa Active Member

    as I grew up my mother had very strong views about organ donation (against it) and vaccinations (against them)

    she was the mother of five children (as I am the father of five!!)

    anyway inevitably, growing up, by a kind of osmosis I developed the same views re organ donation (against it) as my mother - well into my 20's and early 30's

    but increasingly as I had more children I began to see my views were both irrational and baseless - the sole pillar on which they stood was in fact nothing more than a restatement of my mothers views

    I realised I personally could not, in all sincerity, defend them

    so I changed them

    the above is in relation to organ donation so in a way an ethical rather than purely scientific pov

    vaccinations is slightly different, I (with my wife) did look into it as it became relevant to my personal situation, even going to a "what the doctors don't tell you" seminar


    I do think sometimes the medical profession can over medicalise some things

    anyway - all my children are vaccinated (for everything) I/we just made sure they were healthy (no sniffles/colds/flu etc) when they had them
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2016
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Graham2001

    Graham2001 Active Member

    I try to keep myself balanced by having regular conversations with someone I know to be both transgendered and somewhat to the left of where I sit politically (I consider myself to be a 'Radical Centrist' (e.g. A cynic.)), we've agreed on a lot, but the disagreements have been very useful in challenging my assumptions (and theirs.), there is something that I would like to add to the discussion.

    One thing I try to do is keep an eye on the right-wing sites that I can stand and something I have noticed is the appearance since the Brexit vote and Trumps victory in the US Federal election of claims that the 'Left' are incapable of understanding how they lost and that is why they lost (e.g. They no longer understand people outside their social media silos.) fairly typical of this meme is the following blog post by Coast2Coast AMs 'science advisor':


    The article he is referring to is this one:

  5. SR1419

    SR1419 Senior Member

    I think the key (one of) to recognizing and confronting one's own bias is the willingness and ability to admit when you are wrong. Its much easier said than done.
  6. Graham2001

    Graham2001 Active Member

    And in the current American University climate, you have strong social pressures being exerted to encourage people to not challenge their opinions because hearing them may cause psychological harm:

  7. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    that was a very good article but I personally find your chosen quote distasteful. That section was about a rape victim who tried to attend a "debate" about "rape culture" and found she couldn't tolerate it at that time. I applaud her for even attempting to attend. If she can't cope with "challenging her opinion" on rape at this time, there is absolutely nothing abnormal or "bad" about that.

    I'm not exactly Miss Sensitivity, but i think in discussion of that particular article it is important to remember that at least half the college population isnt even old enough to drink legally. Young "adults" commit suicide and commit mass homicide. their frontal lobes aren't even fully developed.

    The article in full isnt really about "safe spaces" for rape victims. It's about how the concept is oozing into other areas of college life, often to ridiculous extremes.

    Do i think colleges should stop holding debates or introducing adult topics because some students don't like what is being said? Absolutely not.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Graham2001

    Graham2001 Active Member

    Ok, maybe it was not the best example, but it is much better than some of the claims I've seen on YouTube, where if you can stand to look for them you will find videos that purport to show people demanding 'safe spaces' because they are 'triggered' by seeing white people (Just in case anyone misses the tone, I think those videos are fake/selectively edited.)

    Regarding the second point while looking for a better article I found one on Vox that quotes the outgoing president:


    Sadly, that point of view is loosing.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Graham2001

    Graham2001 Active Member

    This is a blog post dated January 24, 2017, in which the author is commenting on what they (a self-proclaimed Transsexual) dislike about current activist trends, and that thing is internet group-think:


    I actively monitor various sites I consider to be right-wing, so that I know what they are saying and then try to find sources other than the ones they quote, so I know how to counter them. It is getting much harder thanks to search-engine optimization.
  10. Leifer

    Leifer Senior Member

    I try very hard, to argue with myself and my beliefs. I visit and read opinions I do not agree with.
    Sometimes biases are very deep, and it's hard to toss them away so easily. This is when I turn to the preponderance of evidence.

    I've always wondered if, occasionally, it would be a good exercise to formally and publicly debate "for" ideas I don't currently believe in, or perceive as 'true'. (as a debating exercise)

    I college, we had a classroom assignment where we pulled ideas out of a hat, and we had to formulate a debate based 'in favor' our random 'hat' choice assignments.....regardless if we didn't agree with them prior.
    This is not an uncommon exercise in good school curriculum. It's critical thinking.

    I've thought of a starting a post here, where we 'role-play' and use our best debating skills to argue FOR (in favor of) some common controversial topic that's opposite of our beliefs and/or biases.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2017
  11. Lisa

    Lisa Member

    I hypothesize that it primarily has to do with narcissism. The more narcissistic a person is, the more difficult it is challenge their own thoughts and beliefs, let alone even consider the option that they might be wrong. The ones who suffer from it the most - when they are exposed as being incorrect, they not only disagree, but seem to view it as a threat to their own self-worth - sometimes so much so, you would think their very own existence was attached to it. They will deny, reword, lie, gaslight, blame, shame, and smear you, and then "change history" so that they are now the victim, and you are the perpetrator. They will resort to all these things, rather than admit they could possibly have been wrong.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  12. tadaaa

    tadaaa Active Member

    yes, I sometime use this - it is good to know/understand the mind-set and arguments they use

    I liken it to the Russian General Chuikov's tactic - employed against the Germans at the Battle of Stalingrad

    Chuikov called it "hugging the enemy"

    "It was at Stalingrad that Chuikov developed the important tactic of “hugging the enemy”, Guerrilla warfare, by which under-armed Soviet soldiers kept the German army so close to them as to minimize the superior firepower enjoyed by the Wehrmacht. Chuikov had witnessed firsthand the blitzkrieg tactics the Nazis had used to sweep across the Russian steppe, so he used the Germans' carpet-bombing of the city to draw panzer units into the rubble and chaos, where their progress was impeded. Here they could be destroyed with Molotov cocktails and Russian artillery operating at close range. This tactic also rendered the German Luftwaffe ineffective, since Stuka dive-bombers could not attack Red Army positions without endangering their own forces.[5][6]"

  13. Soilmaker

    Soilmaker New Member

    I think bias can be looked at as "programed" responses conditioned by negative, neutral, or positive feedback. It is built into our neurological system, and is a largely a result of subconscious processing and response. A lot of the daily sensory input gets dealt with below our conscious mind in our subconscious. We can't pay attention to every data stream feeding in through our senses. So subconsciously, we take in information and perform triage; how important is this, and does it need to be bumped up to our surface mind. If it's routine it remains up to our subconscious mind to deal with and our conscious mind doesn't "see" it. And what we don't see we don't evaluate intellectually or rationally. It's like when we drive to work on the same route for the thousandth time and arrive at work not even remembering the trip, but we had lots of time to think along the way.

    We encounter various situations and each stimulates a response (awareness/alertness/thinking/feeling), and our response is strongly shaped by prior experience. If we have not encountered this stimulus before, we might not have an immediate response because we need more information to make a determination. This type of stimulus is likely to kicked up to the surface mind for processing. We think about what is happening. But if we have had a similar stimulus before and it was a painful experience, we might respond automatically in ways of avoidance, without thinking about it. If it was extremely painful or even life threatening, such as the experience of physical violence, it might be impossible not to run away, or think about it. Or conversely, if it was pleasurable, we might automatically expect the same and want more.

    Someone says something to us and we take offense. Why? Do we want to evaluate our feeling of offense or do we respond with defense? Can we mentally step back and take a pause in order to get a better idea of what is happening; why we feel/think the way we do? Or do we respond in predictable, habitual ways?

    I think much of the "bias" that resides in our subconscious makes up a large portion of what we identity as "self". Most people don't question that idea that they know who they are. I think that the most difficult stimulus to deal with is the stuff that challenges our view of "self", the concepts about our self and the world that we believe or 'know" are true. For some, a life crisis can be so disturbing they lose touch with their identity of self and no longer know who they are. For other braver people, they chose to challenge their beliefs. Ultimately, I think making the effort to know your self, to pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and responses to information results in a broadening of the possibilities. We develop greater capability allowing us to chose how we want to respond. This is really what I think of as higher "learning".
    • Like Like x 2
  14. Graham2001

    Graham2001 Active Member

    I found an interesting post by Dr Stephen Novella on the 'Death of Expertise' but he does have an interesting suggestion as to what may have led to the strengthening of peoples reactions to being challenged.

    • Informative Informative x 2
    • Like Like x 1
  15. mscottveach

    mscottveach New Member

    I was just going to share one trick that I use all the time and while I can't ever know what biases it fails to correct, I can see it working to correct some bias every time I do it:

    I forget where I first read it. Maybe Churchill has a quote about it. But I spend a lot of time really trying to fully understand the argument of the conspiracists. I take a mindset of refusing to think they're just being dumb and really bang my head against what their saying trying to see what variation in word definition might lead to their conclusion.

    It's never easy, doesn't always work but the number of times it has changed my perspective from "This guy must be a troll or truly an idiot" to "actually, the mistake he's making is subtle and I can see how that's confusing" is shocking.

    Like, truly shocking. In general, it has shown me that the other side is smarter than they seem and that a lot of superficial conflict is over superficial concepts. Couple that with a tendency for both sides to escalate tone too quickly and it's no wonder we have such a poor track record of educating them on the reasons why they're mistaken.
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  16. Lisa P

    Lisa P Active Member

    Maybe this doesn't have so much to do with biases however I think it is very relevant to the discussion of how our minds could be influenced regarding conspiracy theories, paranoia etc.
    You may have heard of the 2 Swedish sisters on the motorway (sounds like it could be a joke!). I watched the program about them, Madness In The Fast Lane, last night. I found it very disturbing probably because it was late and my mind couldn't process it very well.
    This morning I am trying to remember where people some with mental illnesses some not have influenced my thinking regarding CTs and paranoia particularly when I was younger.
    Anyhow it got me thinking how a persons psychosis/paranoia and what they say or how they act can have an effect on shaping your thoughts and or beliefs. An interesting observation is a lot/most of them seem to be religious/spiritual but the people pulling power they have can be quite unbelievable (i.e. David Wolfe 10.5M followers on facebook). I have only had experience mainly in the alternative health, chemtrail hoax and religion/spiritualist fields.
    The power of science I feel can help save this mind bending from happening. The older I get the more I am only trusting in the scientific process for my own safety as I can easily get sucked into conspiracies more so on the health side of things.
    The BBC documentary about the sisters is well worth a watch you would swear they were high on some form of drug, it certainly did my head in. I have witnessed a bit of mental illness in my lifetime including my own psychosis due to a spiked drink but this behaviour still really unsettled me.

  17. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    I haven't heard of them or seen the episode so I don't know what their delusional belief was, but since paranoia is fear.. I think most people can relate to infectious fear. you go into a creepy/creaky old house with your ghost believing friend and she eventually freaks you out to the point you become 'uncomfortable' in the house too.
  18. Whitebeard

    Whitebeard Senior Member

    In certain circumstances you don't need a nervous friend to get your fear up. A few years ago I was walking past a cemetery late at night, it was this one, one of those big old rambling Victorian jobs of the kind thats popular with horror movie producers and goth-metal bands. It was 3am, very dark, with a sky full of scudding clouds and there wasn't a soul to be seen. Now I'm not a believer in the supernatural and I'm not easily spooked, but suddenly the clouds parted, a full moon lit the place up and then this bloody dog started howling. It was like I had walked into a Hammer Horror movie, and I'll admit I started to panic and legged it and it took a good few minutes for my rational self to get control.
    • Funny Funny x 2
    • Like Like x 1
  19. Rory

    Rory Senior Member

    Something like that would be an interesting test: I often think that there are really (at least) two levels to beliefs. There are those we state, and those we live by - for example, if someone says they believe in an afterlife, and especially in heaven, then death shouldn't be a problem. So then what happens when someone dies or their own death approaches? Do they look forward to it? Does it trouble them? I think that's where real belief is measured.

    I guess your own 'experiment' showed you that, rational as you are in your stated beliefs, there's something deep inside you that is also irrational.

    As for me, I believe in 'spirits', but have happily and soundly slept in many a graveyard. :)
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2018
  20. benotto

    benotto New Member

    The show Extranormal in Mexico had a segment where a group of fans of the show were invited to do an investigation in 'haunted ' sites. A retired pro wrestler turned expert in the occult and a camera crew all went.

    He had a preparation meeting between the van and the gates that was supposed to guide them to be more alert but actually freaked some out before going in the site.
    Religious symbols and tiny flashlights in hand it was usually less than five minutes to mass fear attacks over a random light reflection or a sound no one could explain.

    He would ' experience ' physical attacks if it was a tougher group and that usually had all heading out and examining video for Sunday's show.

    It was all in the prep work plus being in a 'haunted' place between midnight and 3am that only a few might have seen before. It was genius.

    Simple psychology and fear while being in an unfamiliar place. At night during the ' spooky hours ' no less. Armed with a tiny flashlight.

    They dropped that trick a while ago but still use the same tricks during televised investigations.

    The have proven exactly zero results in decades of investigating. Not one legend turned to solid proof. But that is why they must keep at it. Lol!
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2018