Thinking beyond the print


The Appalachian Online

Dewey Mullis

We do it and we can’t help it. It’s a safeguard and a shield. It’s makes us look bigger than the freshman 15 ever could. But in a heartbeat, it can tear us down to size. We have perfected the art of confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias refers to the process by which we nit-pick stories, research, opinions and facts to meet our own personal agendas.

The World Wide Web has proven to be a double-edged sword. While there is a plethora of information and entertainment on any topic from any perspective that is always readily available, we often fail to search Google beyond our own ideologies.

As an opinion writer, I should be the first to admit to a relationship with this guilty pleasure. But over the years of formulating opinions and having them reviewed and reviled, I’ve come to have a love-hate relationship with confirmation bias.

It has provided me with the content I need to get my point across, but it has also been the source much backlash that has placed others at their wit’s ends.

While my responsibility lies in formulating an ultimately one-sided perspective, my intent is to hopefully create conversation beyond the printed word. It is, in fact, an opinion, which is naturally guaranteed an adversary.

So perhaps confirmation bias does serve an important role in today’s discourse. We can utilize this bias to serve as the initiator of conversation. To get people talking, you have to be bold and noteworthy – hopefully in a good way but sometimes it will bite you. Beyond serving as an initiator is where confirmation bias can be damaging to the productivity of conversation and sharing of ideas.

We often feel the need to stick to our guns so we don’t appear weak. Confirmation bias helps us do exactly that. Instead, what we should be doing is striving for diversity.

While striving for diversity, we too often get lost in categorizing ourselves in groups to highlight that diversity. We have a club for this and a club for that, but we don’t often enough get outside of those groups.

Instead, we create for the charts a statistic that broadens the spectrum of diversity, and then we stick to our guns – the things most familiar and easiest to recite without hesitation.

Perhaps we should think of it as placing knowledge and understanding on the bartering system. “I’ll concede to you on this point if we can agree that my point has potential.” Maybe we have to chalk it up as a loss sometimes, too.

Conversations are important and one might argue that they are losing meaning with the continually increasing reliance on social media and messaging.

And so we find that we have to continue adapting in order to continue having meaningful conversation.

We have the world at our fingertips and we have to use it wisely. It’s okay to start strong and finish on even ground every once in a while.

Mullis, a senior criminal justice major from Wallburg, is an opinion writer.