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.