Google always agrees with me!

It seems like whenever you get in an argument with someone and you can’t determine who is correct, you refer to google. After-all, googling the answer is the best way to figure out who/what is right…isn’t it? In class we talked about a confirmation bias. Google does a great job at allowing people to find evidence that supports their ideas, no matter what’s actually correct. This confirmation bias comes from the fact that people want to find others and ideas that support their own. After all, changing our underlying beliefs is very hard, and it’s much easier to just believe whatever already agrees with us. This is where google comes in, when people search for the “correct” answers, they are targeting their findings towards what they already believe to be correct.

For example, the other day a teammate and I were arguing about whether it is possible to breath and swallow at the same time. I argued that it was impossible, but he believed it was possible. I knew that I was correct because earlier that day my biology professor was lecturing about the respiratory system and specifically mentioned that it is impossible. Naturally, when in an argument that can’t be solved; I said, “fine, google it then”. To my surprise, after a short amount of time he had found a website that contradicted me. He proudly announced that he was correct, and I was confused. (He was still wrong, he was on “answers.com”) Whether it was correct or not, how was he able to find a site that confirmed with his incorrect belief so easily?

As Emma Reynolds wrote, “The internet becomes increasingly customizable and personalized, we are no longer seeing anything that challenges us. And it’s highly dangerous”. Google creates what she refers to as a “filter bubble” which is how google chooses what ‘pops-up’ when you enter a search. It is customized according to your past searches. Therefore, a liberal who searches liberal areas will later be given increasing number of liberal sources. This can clearly lead to a confirmation bias as they will later only be encountering political views that support how they feel rather than oppose their beliefs. Another way Google’s results are not reliable deal with the way we search for them. This was the case with my teammate and I. When we are using Google to find results we want them to agree with us and we often phrase our search to only bring up supporting results. For example, my teammate likely searched something along the line of “can’t people breath and swallow at the same time”. Which lead him to a post that was completely wrong but supported him.

An article written by News.com, referenced above, reviews the way Google works and confers with multiple psychologists as to how it coincides with a confirmation bias. They offer a solution. First, to seek opposing beliefs and ideas. It is the best way to ensure that your own beliefs are accurate and is the best way to bring new ways of thinking about. Secondly, they recommend that; when using search engines, to phrase your searches in a way to does not support or deny how you already feel about your topic. For example, the best way to find out about breathing and swallowing would be to search, “breathing and swallowing at the same time”. This will lead to arguments from both sides appearing in the results. Lastly, they recommend that you don’t just look at that white box that first pops up when you search a question. Although it may sometimes be correct, it is often coming from questionable sources.

Reynolds, Emma. “How Google Distorts Your View of the World.” NewsComAu, 17 July 2015, www.news.com.au/technology/online/how-google-distorts-your-view-of-the-world/news-story/d28584949dc861a75b3f08b23af40a5a.

3 thoughts on “Google always agrees with me!

  1. camaral

    I do think there is a lot of truth to the idea that google would confirm your biases. Whenever I google a question it tends to be phrased in a way that would pull responses of people who agree with me. This idea has implications for “fact checking” news articles. I imagine there is the possibility to find things that could both contradict and confirm fake news articles which makes knowing what is the truth very difficult.

  2. spassley

    Wow! How interesting that our searches can be filtered to give us what we “want” to see. This is just another reason why we need to make sure we are keeping an unbiased eye when doing research and making sure that we are not just looking for what supports our own “confirmation bias”. This is why we hear so much in school to source check and see where your information is coming from to make sure your information is reliable and valid.

  3. sjohns25

    I really loved this article! I could really relate I always am talking with others and when we cant agree we always turn to google. No matter what you are looking for you can find a web site/ article agreeing with what you are saying. I think this is really hurting our generation and future generations because it is not teaching us it is just pleasing us. I also could really connect when you were talking about you look something up and then all of the pop-ups are related. It truly blows my mind because it knows what your thinking and talking about its insane how much the internet and technology can do now a days and where it is going. Thanks for sharing!

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