A week or two back I was accused on Twitter of having ‘confirmation bias’. In response to a comment I left on a blog post, Judy Gombita contacted me by private message to say that “it’s very discouraging when you only engage/listen to/agree with the thoughts of one person”. She went on to accuse me of favouring “the usual suspects” when referencing articles here or on Twitter, and when commenting on others’ blogs. I’m not one to run and hide from criticism and so, in the spirit of open debate, I asked her to write a guest post about the issue for FutureComms. She declined.
Confirmation bias occurs when a person favours or interpets information and opinions in such a way that they confirm their own beliefs. It leads to a situation where they selectively retain information that backs up their own views and ignore information that challenges them, resulting in deeply entrenched opinions and a lack of rational questioning in the face of contrary evidence. It’s quite a damning accusation, especially for someone who sees himself as someone who’s always questionning others’ views. But does it actually describe me? And, more to the point, does it apply to half the blogosphere? To you?
Do We Agree Through Habit?
Personally speaking, I do favour some bloggers over others. But I make no excuses for that. I could not possibly subscribe to all of the communications/PR/social media/SEO/tech/psychology blogs I’d like to. I’d never do anything but read. And so yes, I am selective to whom I listen to and I probably do reference some individuals who I respect on a semi-regular basis and many others not at all. Futhermore, I interact with some people far more than others as I have relationships with them, built over time spent chatting and debating on the social web. However, I don’t agree with everything they say. Hell, one of the people Judy is referring to has openly called me her “nemesis”. We disagree about stuff. A lot.
So is this confirmation bias? If it is, then it would look to me as though pretty much the entire blogosphere is guilty as charged. And yet I cannot quite dismiss Judy’s assertions outright. I’ve seen what she’s referring to in specific blogging communities where the ‘community voice’ dismisses the opinions of anyone challenging the group opinion. I wrote about groupthink a few weeks ago, and about how communities often rally to eradicate divergent thinking and rational questioning to come to a consensus that invariably agrees with the blog author. This, surely, is confirmation bias at its worse.
So maybe it’s rife in the blogosphere. And maybe I’m no better than anyone else. Maybe you’re the worst of all of us. What do you think?
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