Stubbornness And Ignorance:Toxic But Intrinsic Traits Of Human Nature

A few weeks ago i wrote this post where i discussed in length the filter bubble and how it was creating cases of intellectual isolation which then cause the propagation of problematic ideologies on social media sites. On today's post i am going to be discussing the confirmation bias, which i feel is more or less a tool of the filter bubble.

I actually came across the term the other day when i was reading an article on The New Yorker .The confirmation bias simply means as humans,we are inclined by our nature to lean more towards opinions that support and assert what we already believe in,regardless of how absurdly baseless and wrong the opinion we hold is proven to be. This is because when one reads or hears opinions that assert what they already believe,the brain releases dopamine,a hormone responsible for invoking feelings of happiness.

So this means by nature,humans always want to hear what they agree with because it gives them a surge of dopamine which consequently leads to feelings of happiness. Because of this crave for a dopamine "fix",people will always try to find ways to keep their beliefs intact and hence will do everything to defend these beliefs. This is why,as i already mentioned on a post titled Arguing Better,arguing with some people,if not most people,feels like talking to a brick wall.

Because of the forementioned human nature of always seeking that which asserts our existing beliefs,reasoning does not take precedence when a human evaluates a logical situation. Simply put,this means even if you present accurate information which contradicts someone's existing stance on a topic,their first instinct will be to refute that new information,even if they know that it is accurate,a habit which has been scientifically proven by numerous experiments which have been detailed on the New Yorker article i mentioned.

As a result of the confirmation bias,most people choose to associate only with people who assert their existing believes which severely stunts their intellectual growth because they end up not being exposed to differing views and opinions which then also leads to cases of disdain and intolerance.

Because most people's feelings and opinions about issues are formed not from deep understanding and reason but by the rate by which it asserts their preexisting notions like i already mentioned,this creates the following intellectual problem.

If the first person's opinion is baseless because it was formed from a desire for dopamine and not reason,they will share it with others who take the same stance (because that is how the confirmation bias works) and this will create a group of people who agree on a stance which was originally formed from a baseless view. Then,because a lot of them believe in that baseless opinion, because of group think,they will attract even more people who believe in that opinion.I will use the following analogy to simply the above explanation:

Person A believes that "most black people are criminals" not because they have statistics to support this but because they were raised in a racist household. This opinion was formed because the belief that most black people are criminals asserts the preexisting racist mindset. Person A then shares it with Person B,who also was raised in a racist household,and so on and on.

After a while,we have a large group of people who hold the notion that "most black people are criminals" not because it is statistically true but because it asserts their preexisting beliefs. Because of the increasing size of this group,it attracts more people because humans are naturally inclined to what is popular (a concept called "group think" which i will cover in a future post). So in essence, this large group of racists all started because of one person's baseless opinion.

If one person in the group could just ask "hey guys,why do we think most black people are criminals?",they will see that they have been following a movement which is based on an unsupported notion. But no one would dare ask because all members of the group hold this mindset because they have intellectually isolated themselves so confirmation bias would not allow them to question a stance that asserts their preexisting racist mindset.

This is how incompetent politicians find their way into high public offices,by simply asserting what people already believe in,exhibit A being Donald Trump.So when he was talking about building that wall to keep the illegal aliens away,he asserted the already existing hostile mindset about immigrants that Americans who voted for him already had.

The other reason the confirmation bias is able to propagate and take precedence over reason in the human decision making process is because,by nature again,humans prefer generic understanding over complete understanding. We prefer to get "an idea" of how something is instead of the "whole picture".

I will explain it this way. If you ask most people right now if they know how a toilet works,they will reply with an overly confident "of course i do".If you ask again,"do you know that toilet flushing actually involves really complex mechanisms",most would probably roll their eyes and reply with a "pshh,right".As you can see from the graphic below,flushing a toilet actually involves really complex mechanisms:

This habit,ironically,has actually been responsible for our rapid evolution and civilization because imagine how left behind we would be as a species if we cared about the nitty-gritties of doing things.Unfortunately,however,this habit is also detrimental in other spheres of humanity like politics because people end up not trying to understand the exact impositions of what politicians are saying but rather decide to vote for them because of the belief asserting (remember how confirmation bias works) rubbish they mostly spew at their rallies.

The filter bubble i mentioned on a previous post takes advantage of the confirmation bias,which is human nature. Because of the desire to be around people who will assert their opinions coupled with social media algorithms which make this even easier,users find themselves in an intellectual cocoon which makes radicalization into problematic ideologies much easier.

Because confirmation bias and ignorance are human nature,the first thing we can do to prevent them from being used against us by politicians and tech giant companies is to first understand that we are being taken advantage of because,well,admitting is always the first step. After understanding this,it would become easier for us to separate the chaff from the grain when it comes to politicians and be able able to try be more open minded and tolerant when it comes to using social media and relating with other people.

In order to be more tolerant and empathetic of other people,we have to work against what is our nature. We must teach ourselves to listen to understand and not to just reply. We must teach ourselves  to pay attention to detail and the nitty-gritties of everything. We must teach ourselves to be readily open and inviting not only to opinions that assert our beliefs,but new and unfamiliar ones too.