Sticking To Our Bubbles




Listrade writes:

One of the more interesting things about inhabiting social media or comments sections is playing behavioural psychology bingo. This act in itself is a form of cognitive bias. It suggests I consider myself above the average commentator who regularly indulges in logical fallacies and cognitive biases.

The average driver considers themselves a better driver than the average driver. Wikipedia-researched logical fallacies and cognitive biases get thrown out into online discussion as tools to diminish an opposing argument. The accuser implying they would never be so stupid as to fall into that trap.

The good news is that practically everything that annoys or angers you about people on the internet is easily summed up by one of the numerous Wikipedia articles on Psychology. The bad news is that it applies to us all equally.

Sticking to our so-called “bubbles” gives the impression that opinions appear to have become more polarised and hardened. That only the side we align with shows logic and reason. That it would be a better world if the other side would just admit they are wrong.

The biggest problem comes from the fact that the “other side” usually doesn’t exist. We’ve created it and tagged it as a reductive left or alt-right. We’ve assigned characteristics from a minority to the majority.

Polarisation of opinions has been inevitable, not because people are unreasonable or irrational, but because people are people. This dive into the “post-truth” world was always going to happen ever since the first BBS [bulletin board system]. Then came the dark days when Uncle Tupelo split up and you had to choose between Farrar or Tweedy. No middle ground, choose now.

Mathew Inman did a great strip on something called the backfire effect in the latest Oatmeal, which was a distillation of the You Are Not So Smart podcast’s three episode in-depth look at this effect. The principle is that some beliefs are so key to who we are, that no matter what the evidence put in front of us, we will reject it.

Reject it and become even more hard-lined in our belief. In short, somethings we hate being wrong about and will believe all kinds of crap in order that we can convince ourselves we aren’t wrong. The current polarisation of opinions can be put down to the backfire effect.

Way back in my early days of public policy, a new early draft of legislation landed and I was charged with finding all the problems with it. For problems, read things that the people who paid our wages wouldn’t like, i.e. things that would cost them money.

There were a lot of problems with it and not just financial ones. It was a mess. The bits that weren’t poorly written were cut and paste from archaic UK regulations (UK references left in place) There was no way it could go through as it was. Except it very nearly did.

Once the errors and necessary corrections were highlighted, rather than them getting changed, the responsible Department dug their heels in and put all their effort into pushing it through with the legislation as it was.

The only amendments accepted at the initial stage were those that would make it worse (for us at least). It was 12 months of swimming upstream against the backfire effect before we got anything changed.

There is plenty of research (much of which is gone through in the podcasts) that seems to show this effect and on a range of issues and topics.

We argue away in a vain attempt to convert and change people’s minds and it turns out it is all for nothing and only works to make them more hard-line in their belief. If anything it drives them to be more extreme in their views than lessening them. That’s how we end up with r/Donald.

However, a worse trait is that when someone finally admits they were wrong against all the psychological odds, we shame them. The Twitter user @Trumpregrets has over 250,000 followers. Its soul aim is for us smarter liberals to laugh at those who now regret voting Trump. Instead of welcoming them or working to align them to a cause, we create a twitter account for all the smart liberals to laugh at the stupid blue-collar workers.

We routinely remind politicians and celebrities of when they were wrong years ago, even though they’ve admitted their error or changed their minds based on evidence.

We say they’ve flip-flopped and post a tweet from seven years ago of them stating something different. It’s acceptable when they deny ever having held such an opinion; have at them, but when they’re admitting they were wrong, that’s different.

Against all the odds and human nature, some people accept their belief was wrong. Let them have that moment without sneering or shaming.

After far too long in public policy and my eventual epiphany, it became as physically draining working against the backfire effect in the legislature as it is trying to reason with someone on an internet comment section, except with less Youtube links.

I vowed to never be that person, to weigh up the evidence and not dismiss contrary views so quickly. I would admit when I’m wrong and not be ashamed. I’m sure that when the day comes when I am wrong, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

Three years ago Listrade asked himself “are we the baddies?” after 10 years working for a lobbying group and retired to Argentina with other ex-lobbyists and baddies. Since then he has never finished the novel he’s been working on for 20 years, but has completed Undertale in peaceful and genocide several times and is two Korok seeds short of 100% completion in Zelda.

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35 thoughts on “Sticking To Our Bubbles

    1. mildred st. meadowlark

      Reminds me of some of my critical theory lectures in college (they were my favourites) and takes me right back to learning about semiotics and the distinction between a ‘terrorist’ and a ‘freedom fighter’.

    1. Moderate THIS!

      No point being snarky Tony just because you can’t barely string a sentence together compared to this guy

        1. Moderate THIS!

          Point taken. Dem folks that ain’t livin in greenhouse be not surprised when no stones ain’t be flying

  1. Frilly Keane, Sophistopath

    So which way is which for me with this he lads

    Or will I wait for Batty to decide

  2. jusayinlike

    Cognitive dissonance and the mind’s eternal battle against it’s ego..

    Thoughtful stuff listrade, bravo..

  3. Moderate THIS!

    I wouldn’t give it 10/10 but I would give it 7 or 8.
    There are many interesting ideas here and a certain joy in seeing a Broadsheet commenter done good by graduating to full blogger. However like many of Listrades outputs I felt it does ramble and needs an editor. That said it needs an editor a lot less than many others. Looking forward to reading more.

  4. Listrade

    Thank you all for the feedback. I’d rate the feedback as a 6/10.

    This is the Broadsheet comments section with a reputation to uphold. I was supposed to be curled up in ball weeping at the vitriol, not acting like Sally Fields at the Oscars.

    1. Nigel

      You article killed every puppy in a ten-mile radius you monster but other than that it was great.

  5. f_lawless

    Trump won the election because his voters couldn’t be made see sense and dug in their heels? Wha’? Sounds like your guilty of your own cognitive bias there, constructing a reductive narrative to fit the point you’re trying to make. Surely it was more complex than that? For example, what about the huge drop off in voter turnout and steady decline of Democratic votes since Obama’s first term? As bad as Trump is and as disappointed as anyone who had misplaced faith in him may be, what reason is there to think warmongerer Clinton, in the pocket of establishment elites, would have been any better for the US public and the wider world?

    1. This monkey's gone to heaven

      the usual blowhards and lickspittles are so busy licking Listrade’s toenails that they were obscured to the fact he talked a lot and actually said little or nothing of substance, no real insight, like a lot of his lengthy, overwrought stuff

    2. Listrade

      I said that’s how we ended up with r/Donald, the SubReddit, not Trump as president. Crucial difference. Other than that, you didn’t overreact at all.

      1. f_lawless

        ok fair enough.. I’m not too up on SubReddit wasn’t clear to me that that was what you were referring to

    3. Nigel

      Thete’s a metric ton of environmental protections that would have been left in place, just for a start, not to mention a flawed but not horrific health care system.

      1. f_lawless

        a fair point, but maybe the head of the US Green party was right when she called a Clinton presidency “a mushroom cloud waiting to happen” and in that scenario, environmental protections wouldn’t have counted for a whole lot!
        Also I think your moral compass maybe slightly skewed if you’re defending Obamacare as “flawed but not horrific”. The wealthiest nation in the world and according to a recent report 27 million of its citizens unable to avail of it.

        1. Nigel

          Well I don’t have much time for Jill Stein so I’d take that under advisement. I guess the Greens in the US are happy now coal companies can pollute rivers at will? Your second point is incoherent. They have a terrible system of healthcare provision. Obamacare made it slightly less worse. Now Trump is going to do away with even that small improvement in favour of a hoprrorshow of a system. Thus was your point about whether things would have been any better refuted.

          1. Nigel

            shouldn’t have said ‘incoherent’ sorry. It’s just constructed and presented as if it’s disagreeing with me or refuting me, and it’s not?

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