Left, Right, Center: Confirmation Bias in Politics

Since the creation of political parties, the nation has been divided into two. The presidential election of Donald Trump in 2016 cut the nation deep, and the recent Brett Kavanaugh controversy makes the cut even deeper. The left sees Kavanaugh as a sexual predator and alcoholic; the right sees Kavanaugh as a victim of a corrupt political system and an overwhelmingly biased media. Anyone left confused in the middle looking for non-partisan objectivity is left empty-handed. However, both the right and the left both have what they believe is strong evidence for their claims: footage from the hearings of Kavanaugh.

Brett Kavanaugh is on trial for sexual misconduct involving an incident from the summer of 1982, where Dr. Christine Blasey Ford recalls Kavanaugh pinning her to a bed and covering her mouth while trying to take off her clothes, while his friend Mark Judge watched. Ford was 15-years-old this summer, and Kavanaugh was 18-years-old. After Ford’s original accusation, Deborah Ramirez of Colorado told the New Yorker in an article published September 23rd that Kavanaugh exposed himself and thrust his genitals in her face during a party in a dorm room at Yale University. Kavanagh has denied both allegations but since these have come about, the White House has conducted a hearing for Kavanaugh and Ford’s testimonies and an FBI investigation on Judge Kavanaugh.

Both the right and the left watched the same footage of the Kavanaugh hearing. However, the right and the left’s different interpretations of Kavanaugh’s hearing could make one believe that they had watched two different hearings. These different interpretations are due to confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for information and even interpret new evidence to confirm one’s preconceptions. Anything presented to someone that holds a pre-existing belief will look for information that supports this initial belief. In the case of Brett Kavanaugh, leftists and rightists are taking the same footage from his trial to support their preconceptions. They will then look for articles such as Anna North’s article in Vox, in which her title “The Brett Kavanaugh hearing showed how little has changed since Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas,” compares Kavanaugh and Ford to Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, another case of sexual misconduct accusations for a candidate for the Supreme Court. Or rightist readers will look to Victor Hanson’s article titled “Kavanaugh’s Testimony Was His Joseph W. Welch Moment” (comparing Kavanaugh to American attorney Joseph Welch who defended the Army in the Army-McCarthy trials) in National Review to support their preexisting beliefs. The media also uses confirmation bias to its own advantage. Titles such as these excite the readers; the media knows that readers already hold preexisting beliefs and use titles and articles such as these to enforce those beliefs. The media nowadays isn’t around to spread new information, but rather to enforce what their readers already think.

Why do we form beliefs, and why is it so hard for us to change our beliefs? One reason is the overconfidence phenomenon. The overconfidence phenomenon is described as the tendency to be more confident than correct or to overestimate the accuracy of one’s beliefs. David Myers in his book Exploring Social Psychology, Eighth Edition writes how the overconfidence phenomenon can be especially dangerous in politics and how overconfident decision makers can wreak havoc. An example of this in the United States is George W. Bush who asserted that Iraq had nuclear weapons back in 2003, whereas none were ever found. In Pietro Ortoleva and Erik Snowberg’s paper, “Overconfidence in Political Behavior,” they write about their model of overconfidence and how “overconfidence leads to ideological extremeness, increased voter turnout, and increased strength of partisan identification,” (Ortoleva, Snowberg, 2014). We can see all of these play out in the Kavanaugh controversy: political extremeness of leftists and rightists. Even our president has taken apart in this in posting a video to his Twitter where he states, “It’s a very scary time for young men in America,” and the overwhelming amount of backlash he has received from celebrities and other politicians. In this case with the President, he speaks from the highest position of power and states that he has stated that he knows Judge Kavanaugh is innocent and has mocked Dr. Ford. Rightists will take the President’s statements as validation of Kavanaugh’s innocence; leftists will say that they have never believed the President and Kavanaugh is guilty. In reality, neither, leftists nor rightists can be certain whether Judge Kavanaugh is guilty of sexual misconduct, but the overconfidence effect it has on their judgment is very evident.

I believe that stopping confirmation bias and overconfidence phenomenon is important in today’s political discussions. Our nation is divided and psychologists agree that confirmation bias and overconfidence phenomenon are contributing to the division. So how can we stop these from affecting our judgments? Myers and Twenge recommend to stop and think about the situation, which will make people less likely to commit confirmation bias, which is “a System 1 snap judgment, where our default reaction is to look for information consistent with our presupposition,” (Myers, 59). For combatting overconfidence phenomenon, one technique Myers and Twenge suggest that would be especially useful in politics, and is similar to the approach to stop confirmation bias, is to stop and think about why you might be wrong.

There are ways to avoid confirmation bias and overconfidence phenomenon in our political decisions. One way is to look for ways to challenge what you think you see. Is Judge Kavanaugh crying as a show so that people will believe his false denials or is he really that frustrated with the events taking place? Another way is to seek out information from a range of sources – if you usually go to right-biased media for your news updates, watch and read left-biased media for the other side of the story, or even stick to center-biased media such as C-SPAN. Another is to discuss your thoughts with others; be open to listen to opposing views and remember that the “devil’s advocate” is sometimes there to challenge our beliefs. I believe the most important way to not succumb to confirmation bias is to keep an open mind when being presented new information. Disagreements among political parties will stay polarized until we have consciously exposed ourselves to new information that challenges our beliefs.

 

Citations:

Myers, D. G., Twenge, J.M. (2018). Exploring Social Psychology (Eighth Ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hanson, V. D. (2018 27 Sept). “Kavanaugh’s Testimony Was His Joseph W. Welch Moment.” Retrieved from http://victorhanson.com/wordpress/kavanaughs-testimony-was-his-joseph-n-welch-moment/

North, A. (2018 27 Sept). The Brett Kavanaugh hearing showed how little has changed since Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/2018/9/27/17906778/brett-kavanaugh-hearing-christine-ford-anita-hill

Abramson, A., Berenson, T., Vesoulis. A. (2018 Sept 27). Brett Kavanaugh Said His Reputation Has Been ‘Permanently Destroyed.’ The Latest on His Senate Testimony. Retrieved from http://time.com/5408177/brett-kavanaugh-christine-blasey-ford-testimony/

 

-Samantha DelGrosso

Is the left or the right ever right?

Both democrats and republicans have the propensity to view the other side as unethical and immoral. Humans have the tendency to engage in confirmation bias. They do not interpret events objectively and instead favor information that they believe to be true and ignore information that doesn’t align with their beliefs. A great study that exhibits confirmation bias was conducted by researchers at Yale University (Kahan, Dawson, Peters, Slovic 2016). Researchers presented subjects with a task that would rely on their ability to produce logical conclusions from empirical data. Subjects were presented a data table about how many people’s rash got better and worst from a new skin rash treatment. The researchers then presented them the identical data except this time the data was titled cities that did or didn’t ban gun and did or didn’t experience a raise in crime. Those who scored the greatest in numeracy (the ability to draw valid conclusions from empirical data) were better at drawing valid conclusions from the table about the new skin rash treatment. However, those who scored higher in numeracy were worst at drawing valid conclusions from the information when the table was about gun control. I expected numerate participants to change their beliefs due to existing data. Yet, the scientist’s initial hypothesis was correct those who were numerate were more likely to interpret the data in a way that supported their political beliefs. When the data didn’t support their beliefs they interpreted the chart a way that supported their pre-existing ideals.

The charts only variation is the label not the numbers in them.

Do vaccines cause autism? Will giving children access to a comprehensive sexual education increase the teen pregnancy rate? The information is out there yet there are still disagreements on the answers to these questions. The confirmation bias states that once people develop an initial hunch they look for information that supports it and disbelieve evidence that doesn’t support it.

Preconceptions shape our interpretations of events and are usually wrong.  I believe that in this case the confirmation bias could’ve been caused for many reasons. One reason is the availability heuristic. The availability heuristic states that if something pops up easily in our head we are more likely to accept it as true. Therefore, the people interpreting the information were more likely to interpret the information as false if the idea didn’t easily pop up in their head.

The inability to perceive the data accurately could also have been caused by the overconfidence phenomenon. The overconfidence phenomenon was proven in many social psychology experiments. For instance, a researcher may ask participants how many dollars a year are collected in tolls from the George Washington Bridge. When participants give an answer they are extremely confident in there answer even if they have no reason to believe they are right. So if the participants instantly saw ‘gun-ban’ and had previously came to the conclusion that gun bans make cities more dangerous they were more likely to answer the question over confidently because even if there’s data, they still think they’re right.

People may have had exhibited the over-confidence effect due to belief perseverance. People tend to believe what they initially believed even when they receive information that discredits it because they think to themselves why they’re still right. Even when they receive information that discredits their belief, they use the proof to emphasize they are right. One way to fix this would be to have people think of reasons why the opposite hypothesis may be true. Another way to resolve this would be to force the person to search for information that they don’t agree with. If they have less confidence in how right their beliefs are they may be less likely to display the over-confidence phenomenon. A second way to reduce the over-confidence phenomenon would be promptly give people information that disproves their beliefs. A significant way I could reduce confirmation bias in this situation is by explaining to people that people often are guilty of making illusory correlations and finding correlations in events that aren’t there. They may think that after their town banned guns it became less safe because there was one shootout. Yet there may be no correlation there at all.

I believe that stopping confirmation bias’ is currently of utmost importance. People cannot continue to vote for public officials who don’t believe in climate change. The future of every creature on the planet is in the hands of those who interpret empirical evidence in an unbiased way.

Citation :

Kahan, Dan M., et al. “Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government.” Behavioural Public Policy, vol. 1, no. 01, 2017, pp. 1–45., doi:10.1017/bpp.2016.2.

 

 

Trump Critiques Football in the Name of Politics

     This week politics has crossed over from the white house to the sports field. Politics have started to infiltrate sports: especially football. The Washington Post wrote an article about how recently, several football teams have taken a knee during the national anthem. The president has told the American people that it was disrespectful to do such a thing despite the amendment right to do so. In the article he says, “That’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for. Okay? And I know we have freedoms, and we have freedom of choice and many, many different freedoms, but you know what? It’s still totally disrespectful.” The Washington Post then talks about how football has increasingly become more and more diverse and that athletes feel as though Trump is silencing their rights as well as taking them away. Should athletes have the right to voice political views? Should people perform outside of their designated roles in america?

     Trump often ridicules athletes for performing outside of their roles. Often times when people step outside their roles they are chastised or shown repercussions. Roles are a set of standards that outline how people should behave in a social position. Let’s first define the role of a football player. Football players play football, recieve interviews, have practices and most importantly avoid politics. The other role that a football player has is being an american citizen. American citizens have pride in their country and often show that pride by standing during the pledge of allegiance. That’s a norm that anyone who is an american citizen follows. Trump criticizes players when they perform outside their roles but is it possible that Trump is performing outside his presidential role by chastising them?  As a president he should worry more about the states of the United States as suppose to sports. The president fails to recognize that as people we have other roles to fill such as mother, father, brother and so forth. The reason the football players kneel is because they recognize their families and friends are in danger especially if they are a person of color. They also are not given the same rights they should be given as an american citizen.  

     In the same light, many people judge these football players based on assumptions and their own inner biases. Trump views these football players as disrespectful when they kneel instead of stand during the national anthem. This can be somewhat explained by the fundamental attribution error. The fundamental attribution error can be defined as the propensity to explain someone’s behavior by attributing a cause to his/her behavior. We either attribute it to dispositional aspects or situational aspects. The negative behavior according to Trump is the football players kneeling during the national anthem. The dispositional attribution is that they are being disrespectful to this country. This makes Trump and other americans believe that they are being disrespectful and that they behavior is linked to their personality. The football players view their behavior differently by looking at the situation attributions: racial tension is building, they have been treated unfairly or racially in america, and that they haven’t been given the same opportunities and rights as the typical white American. The football players believe that they are exercising their rights as americans.

NFL team owners blast Trump in solidarity with players’ protests

President Donald Trump continued his Twitter war with the National Football League on Saturday, this time taking aim at Commissioner Roger Goodell for permitting players to protest by kneeling during the national anthem.

 

Li, D. K. (2017). NFL team owners blast Trump in solidarity with players’ protests. Retrieved from https://thenypost.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/170925-nfl-protest-trump-feature.jpg?quality=90&strip=all

Scott, E. (2017). Analysis | Trump’s problem isn’t with athletes being political. It’s with athletes speaking out against racism.. [online] Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/09/25/trumps-problem-isnt-with-athletes-being-political-its-with-athletes-speaking-out-against-racism/?utm_term=.62a9684afd8b [Accessed 27 Sep. 2017].

Zilber, A. (2017). President Donald Trump continued his Twitter war with the National Football League on Saturday, this time taking aim at Commissioner Roger Goodell for permitting players to protest by kneeling during the national anthem. Retreived from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4914090/Bruce-Maxwell-baseball-player-knee.html#ixzz4ttGFV8mY Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook. Retrieved from http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2017/09/24/04/44A52F0200000578-4914090-President_Donald_Trump_continued_his_Twitter_war_with_the_Nation-a-6_1506225216291.jpg

Kendra L.

“Mother of All Bombs”

On April 11th 2017 the U.S Military dropped a 21,700-pound bomb on Isis positions in Afghanistan killing 36 Isis militant’s. This comes just a few months after Donald Trump was elected 45th President of the United States. This has brought up questions about how our military is going to change within the next four years. 1) The Military’s budget is about to increase upwards to $54 Billion dollars due to threats from a “Dangerous World”.

 

Our military is the strongest in the world. We are a powerhouse nation who is respected throughout the world but we are not the largest. I believe we are doing this because President Trump wants to come into office and make a statement basically saying that we aren’t just going to roll over if an injustice takes place in this world. He is believed to suffer from narcissism, which could explain why his persona is so dominating. Narcissistic people care about making themselves as powerful as possible. They like to be at the top of whatever they are doing and be the best at it. Having a president like this in my opinion is not necessarily a bad thing. If you are going to lead our country you should be able to be at your peak confidence level. But many people are arguing with this because he is also a wealthy businessman who can benefit himself from being president. It’s been a hot topic ever since he declared he was going to run. 2) Regarding the military though, being narcissistic has been proven to be a good thing. Most higher end military leaders are narcissistic because you expect greatness and wont settle for less. I hope to enlist after college so I’m very excited to see where this money goes and what President Trump plans on doing.

 

 

Brendan Maloney

Empty Love of the Trumps

This January, a new president was sworn into the White House, Donald Trump. President Donald Trump is 70 years old with numerous children from different wives. Currently, he is married to Melania Trump. She is 47 years old and they have been married since 2005. However, they have one child together and currently, Melania Trump resides in New York City with their child, Barron Trump.

According to VanityFair, Donald and Melenia Trump have a strained marriage and have compared them to marriages of presidents in the past. Constantly in the media, they analyze the interactions the Trumps have and has concluded they’re not together for each other. This is an example of empty love, which comes from a committed relationship that lacks intimacy and passion. (Myers, 2017)

Empty love or empty marriages continue for the sake of an established institution in life. Being married with children and growing a life with someone makes it difficult for people to cut ties and separate. (Oravecz) “People marry for the sake of love and get divorced for the sake of love.” (Beck, 2014)

On the day of the inauguration, it has been known in the past the last president would greet the winning candidate along with their wife in hand. However, Donald Trump rushed out the vehicle, leaving Melanie Trump to approach them by herself. That was the first sign the media noticed the distance between the two. Hash tags such as #savemelania and #sadmelania surfaced on the web with the assumption she wasn’t happy in the marriage. (Peretz, 2017) Melania Trump has no desire to sleeping in the same bed as Donald Trump. At the moment, Melania Trump decided not to move into the White House when the President moved in. She currently lives in Manhattan however, she has been preparing to move to the White House in the summer with their son, Baron Trump. (Hosie, 2017)

 

 

 

Beck, Ulrich, and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim. The Normal Chaos of Love. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2014. Print

 

Hosie, Rachel. “Relationship Expert Weighs in on Claims Donald and Melania Trump Sleep in Separate Beds.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 23 Mar. 2017. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.

 

Oravecz, Z., Muth, C., & Vandekerckhove, J. (2016). Do people agree on what makes one feel loved? A cognitive psychometric approach to the consensus on felt love. Plos ONE, 11(4),

 

Peretz, Evgenia. “Inside the Trump Marriage: Melania’s Burden.” The Hive. Vanity Fair, 21 Apr. 2017. Web. 22 Apr. 2017.

 

Swipe Right (For Republican)

 

By Connor Wills

While we watch policy and government morph and change with the recent inauguration of President Trump, most people are continuing on with their day to day lives. They’re buying groceries, going to school and work- and they’re even dating! But what does dating have to do with Donald Trump? Does politics play a role in relationships? According to NPR, it sure does. When talking to individuals, they found that a person’s political party will either immediately connect or disconnect individuals looking for a romantic relationship. Why? Likely it has something to do with confirmation bias.

According to a study published by the Polish Psychological Bulletin, people exhibit a confirmation bias when faced with making judgements based on moral character and intelligence/competence. The study’s results showed that people were more likely to search for reasons to support their judgements based on character than they were to search for support of intelligence. They exhibited more bias when it came to moral situations and moral traits- such as honesty- than when it came to competence- such as logical reasoning. And- get this- it made no difference whether one was aware of their bias or not, they still expressed the same amount of bias towards the individual. So, people are likely to act biased towards people based on perceptions of moral character- and they will actively search for reasons to back up their claim.

So, wait- how does this connect to dating? Shared morals and values are one of the things that allow relationships to work. And so, these values are often included on online dating profiles. If I were to mention Hillary Clinton, what kind of ideas would pop into your mind? Likely her morals and values expressed during her campaign. What if I mentioned Donald Trump? The same, right? People are including their political stances on their dating profiles, which puts a perception of character in an individual’s mind. So, when people are browsing through, say, Tinder, and open someone’s profile to see that they have a political affiliation listed, an individual will immediately start looking for validation to support the perception that comes along with it. This confirmation bias is pushing Democrats and Republicans even farther apart, as it is only enforcing the perceived moral differences between the groups. Will Republicans and Democrats be able to get over their differences any time soon? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

 

Citations:

Brycz, H., Wyszomirska-Góra, M., Bar-Tal, Y., & Wiśniewski, P. (2014). The effect of metacognitive self on confirmation bias revealed in relation to community and competence. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 45(3). doi:10.2478/ppb-2014-0037

 

Myers, D. G. (2012). Exploring social psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill.

 

Smith, T. (2017, February 14). When Dating In The Era Of Divisive Politics, Both Sides Stick To Themselves. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/2017/02/14/515179534/when-dating-in-the-era-of-divisive-politics-both-sides-stick-to-themselves