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Interrogating and Evaluating Resources: Filter Bubbles and Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias

"Confirmation bias is the idea that we tend to accept information unquestionably when it reinforces some predisposition we have or some existing belief or attitude." Brendan Nyhan, American Political Scientist and Assistant Professor, Dartmouth

Source: confirmation bias and other biases

Keep in mind: combining an open mind with informed skepticism is tough work. Discovering lots of new ideas and opinions is cognitively taxing. Different ideas, especially ones that challenge our deeply-held beliefs (sometimes beliefs we didn't even know we had) can leave us feeling upset, frustrated, and unsettled. It feels like getting the rug yanked out from under you. If you feel this way, it's okay! It takes courage and perseverance to tackle this mental work, and you are up to the task.

It's tempting to automatically reject things that make us feel frustrated. If you stay aware of your own thoughts and feelings, you'll be better able to navigate this. 

Here are some questions for reflection. You might find it useful to write your thoughts down as you work through them.

  • Am I part of this audience or an outsider?
  • Are this writer’s basic values, beliefs, and assumptions similar to or different from my own? (How does this writer’s worldview accord with mine?)
  • How do I respond to this text? (Will I go along with or challenge what this text is presenting? How has it changed my thinking?)
  • How will I be able to use what I have learned from this text?

Filter Bubbles

Filter Bubbles

"Your filter bubble is your own personal, unique universe of information that you live in online. What’s in your filter bubble depends on who you are, and it depends on what you do. But you don’t decide what gets in — and ore importantly, you don’t see what gets edited out.” Ed Pariser

Questions to Consider:

  • Are your news sources diverse?
  • How do you encounter viewpoints different from your own?
  • Can you listen and try to understand the other side?

In December 2009, Google began customizing its search results for all users, and we entered a new era of personalization. With little notice or fanfare, our online experience is changing, as the websites we visit are increasingly tailoring themselves to us. In the following TED Talk and in more detail in his book, The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser lays bare the personalization that is already taking place on every major website, from Facebook to ABC News. As Pariser reveals, this new trend is nothing short of an invisible revolution in how we consume information, one that will shape how we learn, what we know, and even how our democracy works. Behind the scenes, a burgeoning industry of data companies is tracking our personal information to sell to advertisers, from our political leanings to the hiking boots we just browsed on Zappos. As a result, we will increasingly each live in our own, unique information universe--what Pariser calls "the filter bubble." We will receive mainly news that is pleasant, familiar and confirms our beliefs--and since these filters are invisible, we won't know what is being hidden from us. Our past interests will determine what we are exposed to in the future, leaving less room for the unexpected encounters that spark creativity, innovation and the democratic exchange of ideas.

Watch the following Eli Pariser TED talk on the filter bubble effect. For more information on the topic, read his book, The Filter Bubble.



CC License

This work includes content adapted from Interrogate & Evaluate Resources — Confirmation Bias, University of Connecticut Library,, which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 International License