Self-Serving Bias In Politics
We prefer to believe what we prefer to be true. Francis Bacon
The confirmation bias is also known as the myside bias and I have come to prefer myside. The bias is defined as: the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and rejects information that contradicts them. This indicates a way of seeing things one way, myside only; believing to be true what one wants to be true.
I believe this tendency is the major reason for today’s political turmoil. In the U S two party political system, it is easy to be “myside partisan”. All you need to know on any given subject is which side you’re on. Andrew Sullivan. In an interesting article in New York magazine (Oct. 1, 2017), Andrew Sullivan suggests that we are a divided “two tribes” country. When the three core components of a tribal identity — race, religion and geography — define your political parties, you’re in serious trouble. I consider this a national political example of myside bias.
However, we not only have a two-sided tribal government, we also have a two-sided voting public. Consider this (from Sullivan’s article): 61 percent of Trump supporters say there’s nothing he could do to make them change their minds about him; 57 percent of his opponents say the same thing. Nothing he could do. To me this is an example of afixed mindset, unable to consider, or even hear other views (myside bias). This also appears to be the mindset of congress. And it eliminates compromise, collaboration, cooperation, agreement, alliance, partnership, and working together, uniting the tribes. Democracy is based on the functioning of these practices.
If myside bias is so strong that it can’t see the other side, how do we overcome this tribal dead-end? Sullivan says: The actual solutions to our problems are to be found in the current no-man’s- land that lies between the two tribes. This requires political compromise, which requires overcoming myside bias, and involves open-minded listening to information and ideas the contradict one’s own. How likely is that with politicians and voters? Not very likely, in my opinion, because open-mindedness requires some amount of uncertainty about what my side believes. And uncertainty is not very popular. Brain research suggests the human brain does not like uncertainty.
But the confirmation/myside bias isn’t the only interference to political decision making. Other selfish beliefs interfere: Perceptual bias, Uncertainty bias, Bandwagon bias, Self-serving bias. And Blind-spot bias: recognizing the impact of biases on the judgement of others, while failing to see the impact of biases on one’s own judgment. Blind-spot bias makes me believe that politicians and voters will not overcome their myside bias. Sides will remain one-sided. What do you believe?
America isn’t built for humans. Our political system is too naïve to handle tribalism. Tribalism was an urge our founding fathers assumed we could overcome. Andrew Sullivan