Check your own biases

Bias flows not only from those who generate fake news. We all have our own biases, misunderstandings, and worldviews as well. Recognizing our own biases doesn't mean we have to agree with everything we read or hear, but it can help us be more open to differing rational interpretations of scientific data and conclusions.

Confirmation Bias

A common example is confirmation bias. Coined by psychologist Peter Wason in a 1960 research article, this occurs when our decision to regard information as true or false is unduly influenced by our existing knowledge and worldview. It thus makes us less likely to entertain or seek out differing opinions or thoughts. Confirmation bias is at the heart of related concerns about social media "bubbles" and the dangers of rarely encountering information that contradicts an existing outlook.

One way to counter confirmation bias is to purposefully seek out dissenting viewpoints and new, unfamiliar information sources, while using available tools and techniques to judge their merit.

Scientists are not immune to confirmation bias, and use a variety of techniques including falsification of the null hypothesis, various aspects of their experimental design, and peer review to counter its influence.

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