Opening your mind: Processing bias and fake news in the new political climate


Reported by Duncan Anderson

Langara student surveys a variety of the school’s posters. Photo by Sam Mowers

Confirmation bias is defined in terms of energy. It takes the brain less energy to confirm something a person already thinks is right, than to wrestle with new or conflicting information.

Understanding new ideas: Less fear of the unknown

The events leading up to the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, the rise of fake news and the accusation of a biased media are all symptoms of a public facing change in an uncertain future. The better people understand how they process novel information the less everyday encounters become about reinforcing barriers.

“We are evolutionarily based to continuously scan our environment for threat or reward,” said Lee Nicholas, clinical supervisor and consultant who works in Yaletown. He added that the reward is usually social bonding, which helps reduce the stress caused by unknown or new situations.

Langara social psychology instructor, Jennifer Poole, weighs in

Social Psychology Professor, Jennifer Poole, sits in her office eating lunch for The Voice’s interview. Photo by Duncan Anderson

People like to be right, said Jennifer Poole, instructor of social psychology at Langara. They will always find ways to make conflicting information fit into their world-view before changing their mind.

“If I believe, for example, that Trump is a wonderful person because he is good at not going with the status quo,” said Poole “every time he makes a misogynist comment or a racist comment I am going to think ‘Oh, he doesn’t really mean that.’”

There are ways to open your mind to different perspectives by meeting people who share different religions, ways of thinking and cultures.

According to Poole, research suggests that overcoming personal prejudice means stepping out of comfort zones. It is not easy, but it may be the best way to expand your mind.

Check out this week’s podcast related to our current issues and ideas page.

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