This article came out over two years ago, and was very popular, but I didn’t actually read it until this week. It’s amazing and informative and I recommend it, especially if – like me – you are curious what evolutionary advantage humanity gained through confirmation bias (no other species has it, as far as we know). Or, if you’re someone who still thinks you can win political arguments using logic and reason.
A couple of my favorite parts of the article:
“As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding,” Sloman and Fernbach write. And here our dependence on other minds reinforces the problem. If your position on, say, the Affordable Care Act is baseless and I rely on it, then my opinion is also baseless. When I talk to Tom and he decides he agrees with me, his opinion is also baseless, but now that the three of us concur we feel that much more smug about our views.
The Gormans, too, argue that ways of thinking that now seem self-destructive must at some point have been adaptive. And they, too, dedicate many pages to confirmation bias, which, they claim, has a physiological component. They cite research suggesting that people experience genuine pleasure—a rush of dopamine—when processing information that supports their beliefs. “It feels good to ‘stick to our guns’ even if we are wrong,” they observe.