Beware your biases…and how they’re being reinforced

Go and read these two articles. I’ll wait.

Did you read them both? Good. Now go read them again. I’ll wait.


Did you read them a second time? Half of you didn’t, and the other half didn’t read them the first time, so I’ll summarize.

The first article describes the fact that Facebook and Google tell you what they think you want to hear. Are you conservative? Don’t expect any liberal news in your Facebook feed. Are you liberal? Don’t expect Google News to show you conservative articles. Maybe you’re a person who prefers an echo chamber. That’s your right, but I would encourage you to at least recognize that it is a right you are exercising.

The second article is a bit less social media specific, and talks about the psychology behind our own self-built echo chamber. Are you more worried about being killed by ISIS, or by a car accident? Most people are worried about ISIS, but the ISIS death toll, as of January, is a bit under 19,000 people, exactly half as many who died in car accidents just in 2015. This is an example of “Salience”, number 16 on the list of cognitive biases we face as humans.

It’s vitally important to be aware of these things when making decisions, be it what cell phone to get, or who to vote for. Know what’s manipulating the information you’re using to make a decision…and whether you’re really making a decision in the first place.

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