Shermer and confirmation bias

Michael Shermer in the LA Times:

Confirmation bias explains why so many rumors about candidates were eagerly embraced recently. On the left, commentators glommed onto false gossip about Sarah Palin’s ignorance (she doesn’t know that Africa is a continent) and bigotry (she tried to ban books from the public library) because liberals think that conservatives are dumb and dogmatic, and after eight years of George W. Bush’s malapropisms and Palin’s interview fumbles, such rumors merely confirmed what liberals already believed.

It’s been my experience that confirmation bias is one of the most powerful (powerful in the sense of most likely to lead us astray) faults of the human mind. Shermer’s op-ed piece is a nice overview of the pitfalls found within.

It’s a pretty difficult bias to counteract, as it requires you to consciously step back from everything you learn and think about why you agree or disagree with it.

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