What is confirmation bias? What is motivated reasoning? How do they impact the spread of misinformation?

Data Literacy Uncertainty and Misinformation

A: Confirmation bias happens when we accept information that confirms our pre-existing ideas or beliefs, but ignore or question information that does not. Motivated reasoning happens when we only seek out information that confirms what we already think is true.

Both ways of distorted thinking can lead us to share information without critically assessing it first.

TL:DR; Practicing good information hygiene means challenging ourselves to check our emotions, take stock of our beliefs, and be aware of our existing biases when we encounter and seek out new information.

Confirmation bias and motivated reasoning are forms of distorted thinking that can cause us to hear what we want to hear, seek out what we want to find, and then turn around and only share what we want to believe is true. Oopsies! Don’t feel bad though, we’ve all fallen prey to this type of thinking at one point or another. Indeed, Those Nerdy Girls often have to pause a beat, check our biases, and critically assess information (especially when a study affirms our beliefs or hypotheses) before we share it out to all of you! Recognizing that these ways of distorted thinking exist is the first step to raising our defenses against engaging in them.

How do we do that?

The News Literacy Project (newslit.org)-which we highly recommend, made a great graphic (below) that provides concrete examples of confirmation bias and motivated reasoning in action. It also explains WHY we are so vulnerable to these ways of distorted thinking (hint: dopamine levels rise when we see messages that confirm our beliefs!) and HOW we can be aware of and prevent this line of distorted thinking.

They recommend the following:

🔵 Slow down and rein in your emotions so you can think more rationally about new information

🔵 Be honest with yourself about your beliefs and challenge yourself to remain open-minded to opposing information

🔵 Acknowledge your existing biases so you can recognize you might be engaging in distorted thinking.

For more great tips from The News Literacy Project, see here: https://newslit.org/…/dont-let-confirmation-bias…/

For our past post on distorted thinking, see here: https://dearpandemic.org/framing-of-messages-changes…/

For a great example, Nerdy Girl Dr. Jenn Dowd, called into question estimates of the # of COVID-19 cases linked to the 2020 Sturgis Bike Rally (even though we agree it wasn’t great for transmission), (linked here): https://dearpandemic.org/sturgis-bike-rally/

Graphic credit: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FYCtawZVQAARGt9.jpg