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Strong convictions can blind us to data that challenges them

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When individuals are extremely assured in a call, they soak up data that confirms their resolution, however fail to course of data which contradicts it, finds a UCL mind imaging examine.

The examine, printed in Nature Communications, helps to elucidate the neural processes that contribute to the affirmation bias entrenched in most individuals’s thought processes.

Lead creator, Ph.D. candidate Max Rollwage (Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging at UCL and Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry & Ageing Research) stated: “We had been within the cognitive and neural mechanisms inflicting individuals to disregard data that contradicts their beliefs, a phenomenon generally known as affirmation bias. For instance, local weather change sceptics may ignore scientific proof that signifies the existence of worldwide warming.

“While psychologists have lengthy recognized about this bias, the underlying mechanisms weren’t but understood.

“Our study found that our brains become blind to contrary evidence when we are highly confident, which might explain why we don’t change our minds in light of new information.”

For the examine, 75 individuals carried out a easy job: they needed to choose whether or not a cloud of dots was shifting to the left or proper aspect of a pc display screen. They then needed to give a confidence score (how sure they had been of their response), on a sliding scale from 50% positive to 100% sure.

After this preliminary resolution, they had been proven the shifting dots once more and requested to make a ultimate resolution. The data was made even clearer the second time and will assist individuals to alter their thoughts if they’d initially made a mistake. However, when individuals had been assured of their preliminary resolution, they not often used this new data to right their errors.

25 of the individuals had been additionally requested to finish the experiment in a magnetoencephalography (MEG) mind scanner. The researchers monitored their mind exercise as they processed the movement of the dots.

Based on this mind exercise, the researchers evaluated the diploma to which individuals processed the newly offered data. When individuals weren’t very assured of their preliminary selection, they built-in the brand new proof precisely. However, when individuals had been extremely assured of their preliminary selection, their brains had been virtually blind to data that contradicted their resolution however remained delicate to data that confirmed their selection.

The researchers say that in real-world situations the place individuals are extra motivated to face by their beliefs, the impact could also be even stronger.

Senior creator Dr. Steve Fleming (Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging at UCL, Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry & Ageing Research and UCL Experimental Psychology) stated: “Confirmation bias is usually investigated in situations that contain advanced selections about points similar to politics. However, the complexity of such opinions makes it tough to disentangle the varied contributing elements to the bias, similar to wanting to keep up self-consistency with our associates or social group.

“By using simple perceptual tasks, we were able to minimise such motivational or social influences and pin down drivers of altered evidence processing that contribute to confirmation bias.”

In a earlier, associated examine, the analysis workforce had discovered that individuals who maintain radical political beliefs—at both finish of the political spectrum—aren’t nearly as good as moderates at realizing after they’re fallacious, even about one thing unrelated to politics.

Because the neural pathways concerned in making a perceptual resolution are effectively understood in such easy duties, this makes it doable for researchers to observe the related mind processes concerned. The researchers spotlight that an understanding of the mechanism that causes affirmation bias might assist in growing interventions that would cut back individuals’s blindness to contradictory data.

Max Rollwage added: “These results are especially exciting to me, as a detailed understanding of the neural mechanisms behind confirmation bias opens up opportunities for developing evidence-based interventions. For instance, the role of inaccurate confidence in promoting confirmation bias indicates that training people to boost their self-awareness may help them to make better decisions.”


Radicals aren’t good at realizing after they’re fallacious


More data:
Max Rollwage et al, Confidence drives a neural affirmation bias, Nature Communications (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-16278-6

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Strong convictions can blind us to data that challenges them (2020, May 27)
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Psychology & Psychiatry

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