Recent research has demonstrated a difficult-to-read font can reduce the influence of the “confirmation bias.”
Wikipedia on confirmation bias:
Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. For example, in reading about gun control, people usually prefer sources that affirm their existing attitudes. They also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations).
A series of experiments in the 1960s suggested that people are biased toward confirming their existing beliefs. Later work re-interpreted these results as a tendency to test ideas in a one-sided way, focusing on one possibility and ignoring alternatives. In certain situations, this tendency can bias people’s conclusions. Explanations for the observed biases include wishful thinking and the limited human capacity to process information. Another explanation is that people show confirmation bias because they are weighing up the costs of being wrong, rather than investigating in a neutral, scientific way.
Confirmation biases contribute to overconfidence in personal beliefs and can maintain or strengthen beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. Poor decisions due to these biases have been found in military, political, and organizational contexts.
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The topic maps consumed by users can either help avoid or reinforce (depends on your agenda) the impact of the confirmation bias.
The popular account of the research:
Liberals and conservatives who are polarized on certain politically charged subjects become more moderate when reading political arguments in a difficult-to-read font, researchers report in a new study. Likewise, people with induced bias for or against a defendant in a mock trial are less likely to act on that bias if they have to struggle to read the evidence against him.
The study is the first to use difficult-to-read materials to disrupt what researchers call the “confirmation bias,” the tendency to selectively see only arguments that support what you already believe, psychology professor Jesse Preston said.
The new research, reported in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, is one of two studies to show that subtle manipulations that affect how people take in information can reduce political polarization. The other study, which explores attitudes toward a Muslim community center near the World Trade Center site, is described in a paper in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
By asking participants to read an overtly political argument about capital punishment in a challenging font, the researchers sought to disrupt participants’ usual attitudes to the subject, said graduate student Ivan Hernandez, who led the capital punishment/mock trial study with University of Illinois psychology professor Jesse Preston.
The intervention worked. Liberals and conservatives who read the argument in an easy-to-read font were much more polarized on the subject than those who had to slog through the difficult version. [Difficult-To-Read Font Reduces Political Polarity, Study Finds]
Or if you are interested in the full monty:
“Disfluency disrupts the confirmation bias.” by Ivan Hernandez and Jesse Lee Preston. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology Volume 49, Issue 1, January 2013, Pages 178–182.
One difficulty in persuasion is overcoming the confirmation bias, where people selectively seek evidence that is consistent with their prior beliefs and expectations. This biased search for information allows people to analyze new information in an efficient, but shallow way. The present research discusses how experienced difficultly in processing (disfluency) can reduce the confirmation bias by promoting careful, analytic processing. In two studies, participants with prior attitudes on an issue became less extreme after reading an argument on the issues in a disfluent format. The change occurred for both naturally occurring attitudes (i.e. political ideology) and experimentally assigned attitudes (i.e. positivity toward a court defendant). Importantly, disfluency did not reduce confirmation biases when participants were under cognitive load, suggesting that cognitive resources are necessary to overcome these biases. Overall, these results suggest that changing the style of an argument’s presentation can lead to attitude change by promoting more comprehensive consideration of opposing views.
I like the term “disfluency,” although “a dlsfluency on both your houses” doesn’t have the ring of “a plague on both your houses,” does it?*
Must be the confirmation bias.