Oct 2, 2020

Exploit Explained: MySide Bias

{This post is part of the Archive of Human Exploits}

"[M]any commentators have ascribed some part of the [political] divide to what they term our 'post-truth' society, but this is not an apt description of the particular defect that has played a central role in our divided society. The cause of our division is not that people deny the existence of truth. It is that people are selective in displaying their post-truth tendencies.

"What our society is really suffering from is myside bias: People evaluate evidence, generate evidence, and test hypotheses in a manner biased toward their own prior beliefs, opinions, and attitudes ...

"It turns out that myside bias is not predictable from standard measures of cognitive and behavioral functioning. The degree of myside bias that people show is not correlated with their intelligence or level of actively open-minded thinking; nor is it correlated with their educational level. It is not correlated with how much they display other biases...myside bias in one domain is not a predictor of the myside bias shown in another domain. It is simply one of the most unpredictable of the biases ...

"In short, just as we are gorging on fat-laden food that is not good for us because our bodies were built by genes with a selfish replicator survival logic, so we are gorging on memes that fit our resident beliefs because cultural replicators have a similar survival logic. And just as our overconsumption of fat-laden fast foods has led to an obesity epidemic, so our overconsumption of congenial memes has made us memetically obese as well. One set of replicators has led us to a medical crisis. The other set has led us to a crisis of the public communication commons whereby we cannot converge on the truth because we have too many convictions that drive myside bias."

- Prof. Keith E. Stanovich, "The Bias that Divides Us"