Confirmation Bias in a Political Context

In social psychology, the notion of confirmation bias has been applied as the best-known and widely accepted notion of inferential error. Philosophers and psychologists have believed that a long-recognized phenomenon is a critical determinant of both thought and behavior. The idea that individuals tend to approach evidence in biased ways is applicable to a wide variety of issues and disciplines, and politics is especially relevant in such a context (Nickerson 192). Research on political prejudice, for example, showed a link between political discussion and prejudice throughout time (Bohman et al. 1). Moreover, the longer do individuals adhere to particular political views, the greater is the relationship between prejudice and political discussion.

The psychology of confirmation bias in politics is closely linked to the nature of news and its transfer of information to the general public. According to a Gallup Poll, 45% of Americans think that there is a “great deal” of political bias in the news, and 69% of respondents state that the news outlets owners’ attempts to influence the news is a significant political problem (Jones and Ritter). Since confirmation bias has different forms, the political bias acquired through media coverage can work in the favor of justifying policies that the ruling party has implemented. As suggested by Nickerson, once a policy has been introduced, all the activities that follow become the effort of justifying it (191). In the instance of the Vietnam war, the political preferences of news sources that supported the government enabled confirmation bias in some population groups. The proponents of the war would seek information in the media as to why it is beneficial for the country in general or them individually, failing to consider the limitations of going into war and its true costs. This shows that society is far more likely to believe facts if they align with one’s views and opinions and less likely to believe and recall information that goes against one’s beliefs.

Thus, in the case of the Vietnam war, the anti-war marches were held by the proponents of the Democratic movements. The cognitive dissonance was associated with the beliefs of the Republicans who listened to the facts and opinions in the government-supported media. Thus, the public took into consideration those facts that are consistent with the positions that they have previously taken while intentionally ignoring the Democratic narrative that was inconsistent with their views. Moreover, confirmation bias has shown to be prevalent in situations that are inherently ambiguous and complicated, and political situations usually are. In cases characterized by the interplay between different variables and in which the cause-and-effect relationships are unclear, the data available is open to multiple interpretations.

To conclude, within the political narrative, assessing the merits of one’s own opinions impartially is nearly impossible because of the consistent media bias as well as the tendency of people to reject any alternative views that are inconsistent with their own. It is the inherent likelihood of humans to look for evidence that would directly support the favored hypothesis. In turn, it is also common to seek out facts that would be embarrassing to the hypothesis one disbelieves or dislikes. Therefore, confirmation bias is a part of human nature, and it will be inevitably present in the political discourse, especially considering the prevalence of bias in popular news media.

Works Cited

Bohman, Andrea, et al. “Politics and Prejudice: How Political Discussion with Peers is Related to Attitudes about Immigrants During Adolescence.” Frontiers in Sociology, vol. 4, 2019, pp. 1-70.

Jones, Jeffrey, and Zacc Ritter. “Americans See More News Bias; Most Can’t Name Neutral Source.” Gallup, 2018, Web.

Nickerson, Raymond. “Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitous Phenomenon in Many Guises.” Review of General Psychology, vol. 2, no. 2, 1998, pp. 175-220.

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