Tag Archives: Sociological Images

The Confirmation Bias in Action: “When I Looked Closer, It’s Obvious I’m Right”

Decision-making biases are challenging, to say the least. Often times, we don’t know that they’re affecting our ability to make logical and rational decisions. The first step in combating these biases is knowing what they are. The next step would then be identifying when we use these biases. On that note, I came across a funny comic that perfectly illustrated the confirmation bias in action.

The confirmation bias is just dripping from this comic. It might not always be easy to see when we’re operating under the confirmation bias, but “luckily,” we might have an easier time of seeing it in someone else.

A couple of years ago, I offered some other ways for combating the confirmation bias (once you know that it’s a thing). One of these ways is a two-pronged approach: seeking out contradictory information. It may sound easy to go out and look for information that doesn’t conform to your opinion, but it can actually be quite difficult. The difficulty is amplified by the fact that much of our social media sites are doing their best to show us content that conforms to our beliefs and opinions (in part because that’s what they think we want). As a result, it *might* be easier to seek out people with contradictory opinions.

When you’re trying to combat the confirmation bias by being exposed to different information, seeking out a person with a contradictory opinion is usually superior to seeking out contradictory information. Why? Because the person can engage with you and refute the things you might mutter under your breath as you’re reading the contradictory information. Essentially, you’d be engaging in the Socratic method.

If seeking out someone with a contradictory opinion sounds interesting to you, I’d encourage you to find someone who’s aware that you’re trying to combat your own confirmation bias. That is, you don’t want your first experience in this regard to be with someone who’s going to screech at you that your ideas are crazy.

There are More Security Guards in the US than There are High School Teachers

At first blush, the idea that there are more security guards in a country than high school teachers doesn’t seem right. It’s one of those things that, when you hear it, makes you question the values of the country. After seeing the headline, I thought I’d follow the links to see just where the sources came from. It turns out that the source is an academic who, thankfully, included a list of sources.

It seems to me that this is perfectly in keeping with the theme of my last post. For a country that’s national defense headquarters spends more money war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety, why wouldn’t you also expect there to be a plethora of security guards employed in the country? I suppose the hope would be that there wouldn’t be more of them than high school teachers.

Given the decline of US education, I wonder if the US might be better served if they took even one-quarter of the security guards and turned them into teachers. Of course, simply taking away their flashlights and guns and giving them chalk won’t necessarily solve the problem of the US falling behind in education across the world, but with some effective training, they could turn out to be pretty good teachers.

I suppose there’s more to it than that, though. Simply shifting one segment of the workforce to another won’t necessarily change the tacit values of the culture that led to this kind of development. That is, as I mentioned earlier regarding the budget of the Pentagon, it might just be that at America’s heart, this is what they value — defense over education. I wonder if there’s a poll out there juxtaposing the two. That is, if citizens were forced to choose where they’d rather have their dollars spent, would the rather it spent on education or defense? Even asking a question like that is difficult given the exposure to the media. In a vacuum, folks might prefer education to defense, but because of the news reports they’ve seen/heard over the last few decades, they’d put their dollar into the defense bucket. One could then argue that nothing really occurs in a vacuum, so that it probably proves nothing. Nonetheless, I’d be interested to see just how many Americans would choose defense over education.

I should clarify that I’m not saying that the US should spend nothing on defense, but when you get a certain point, the marginal utility of a dollar spent on education has to be higher than the the marginal utility of a dollar spent on defense.