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Fake News: BIAS

Types of Bias

Bias is a tendency to believe that some people, ideas, etc., are better than others, which often results in treating some people unfairly.

Confirmation bias, or the selective collection of evidence, is our subconscious tendency to seek and interpret information and other evidence in ways that affirm our existing beliefs, ideas, expectations, and/or hypotheses. Therefore, confirmation bias is both affected by and feeds our implicit biases. It can be most entrenched around beliefs and ideas that we are strongly attached to or that provoke a strong emotional response.

Explicit bias refers to attitudes and beliefs (positive or negative) that we consciously or deliberately hold and express about a person or group. Explicit and implicit biases can sometimes contradict each other.

Implicit bias includes attitudes and beliefs (positive or negative) about other people, ideas, issues, or institutions that occur outside of our conscious awareness and control, which affect our opinions and behavior. Everyone has implicit biases—even people who try to remain objective (e.g., judges and journalists)—that they have developed over a lifetime. However, people can work to combat and change these biases.

Credit: Facing History and Ourselves. Lesson 3: "Confirmation and Other Biases."

New York Times article: Read: How to Escape Your Political Bubble for a Clearer View

Consider Your own Biases

This is perhaps the hardest part of being a smart consumer of news. We all like to read things that validate our own beliefs. However, our biases can keep us from taking a hard look at fake news when it confirms what we already think. Here are some strategies to try moving beyond our biases:

Try to be aware of your own biases. We talk about bias as if it's a dirty word, but we all have biases, and often they are psychologically useful frames of reference for making our way through the world. We just don't want fake news sights to use our biases against us.

You can try some of the Project Implicit Social Attitudes or Mental Health tests to get a better look at some of your own biases.

When faced with a news story or argument that you automatically disagree with, try checking to see if it is fake news or otherwise unreliable. If it's not, try to give that story or argument the most benefit of the doubt that you can.

  1. What is the best point that it makes?
  2. Whose voices are being represented that you may not have heard before?
  3. Why might it be important?

​​You don't have to agree with everything that you read, but sometimes making the best case you can for a perspective or argument that conflicts with your own beliefs and perceptions will help you make your own arguments better.

To be a critical consumer, one must:

- Study alternative perspectives and world views, learning how to interpret events from multiple viewpoints.

- Seek understanding and insight through multiple sources of thought and information

- Mentally rewrite (reconstruct) news stories through awareness of how stories would be told from multiple perspectives.

- Assess news stories for their clarity, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, and significance.

- Notice contradictions and inconsistencies in the news (often in the same story).

- Notice the agenda and interests served by a story.

- Notice the facts covered and the facts ignored.

- Notice what is represented as fact (that is in dispute).

- Notice questionable assumptions implicit in stories.

- Notice what is implied (but not openly stated).

- Notice which points of view are systematically put into a favorable light and which in an unfavorable light.

- Mentally correct stories reflecting bias toward the unusual, the dramatic, and the sensational by putting them into perspective or discounting them.

- Question the social conventions and taboos being used to define issues and problems.

Source:
Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2004). The thinker’s guide for conscientious citizens on how to detect media bias & propaganda. Retrieved from http://www.criticalthinking.org/files/SAM-MediaBias1.pdf

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