Confirmation bias

No, this has nothing to do with the Alito confirmation vote.

Most of my friends are die-hard Republicans who watch Fox News, listen to Rush Limbaugh, and read The American Spectator. I don't belittle anyone for being Republican, watching Fox News, listening to Rush Limbaugh, or reading The American Spectator. People (on both the left and the right) tend to seek support for what they already believe rather than seek out information that might undermine their beliefs, and therein lies the danger... when individuals follow this path to the exclusion of all other sources of news & information, they isolate themselves from reality.

If one of my friends were to stumble upon my musings, chances are they would seek out errors in my reasoning so that they can dismiss everything I say. It's human nature--everyone tends to be this way. We often overlook flaws in the arguments of sympathetic believers, and we go all-out to find the flaws in arguments of others. This double standard is known as confirmation bias in psychology.

It's why a very close friend didn't know that Cheney's daughter is gay until the Cheney/Edwards debate--he watches Fox News exclusively, which has its own bias. In fact, a study published in the Political Science Quarterly in the Winter 2003-2004 issue showed that Fox viewers were more likely than viewers of any other network to hold the following three erroneous views: 1) 67% of Fox viewers believed that the "U.S. has found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al Qaeda terrorist organization" [NOTE: The U.S. has found no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda, despite Cheney's repeated claims otherwise.] ; 2) 33% of Fox viewers believed that the "U.S. has found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction since the war ended" [NOTE: Wrong again.]; 3) 35% of Fox viewers believed that "the majority of people [in the world] favor the U.S. having gone to war" with Iraq [NOTE: They don't.] This isn't a slam on Fox--it just shows that confirmation bias is real.

I'm really open minded and actually enjoy hearing views which conflict with mine if I'm given the opportunity to discuss & debate these views. I'm not so bold or prideful to think I've got everything figured out, and thus the title of my blog. I recently had two situations where close friends pushed their ideology on me without challenging their own ideological notions. Sure, it's disappointing to have close-minded friends who believe the complexities of politics & life can be summarized into 15-second soundbites, but what disappoints me most is that they refuse to challenge their own beliefs, believe the media--any media, don't seek out other ideas or perspectives, and refuse to have a rational discussion about the subject. They know they're right--to hell with everyone else. Without realizing it, they limit themselves through self-imposed ignorance... but not as they see it!

And one parting note: it's unfair to assume this confirmation bias exists exclusively with those on the right. Because of where I live and my church affiliation, most of my friends and acquaintances lean heavily Republican, but it would be foolish to think Democrats don't harbor the same confirmation bias. My plea is this: challenge everything & seek out conflicting opinions & beliefs.