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We’re seduced by graphs

It doesn’t take a lot to dazzle the average newspaper or magazine reader using the superficial props of science, be that formulas, graphics or jargon. 

One study found that participants were far more likely to support new evidence when it had a graphic visualisation of the correlational evidence than if they had read the same evidence without a graphic.

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We’re swayed by anecdotes
Most of us are influenced more powerfully by personal testimony from a single person than by impersonal ratings or outcomes averaged across many people. This is the power of anecdote to dull our critical faculties. 

Anecdotal stories can undermine our ability to make scientifically driven judgements in real-world contexts.

We overestimate our comprehension of the science. 

Part of the problem seems to be that we infer our understanding of scientific text based on how well we have comprehended the language used. This “fluency bias” can also apply to science lectures when it is delivered by an engaging speaker.

Even expert researchers suffer from the human foibles that undermine scientific thinking. 

This is why the open science revolution occurring in psychology is so important: when researchers make their methods and hypotheses transparent, and they pre-register their studies, it makes it less likely that they will be diverted by confirmation bias (seeking out evidence to support their existing beliefs).

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Cherry-picking information

Confirmation bias, means we’re more likely to notice stories or facts that fit what we already believe (or want to believe). So, when you search for information, you should not disregard the information that goes against whatever opinion you might have in advance.

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If you’re trying to explain to someone the issues with their stance, you can mitigate the backfire effect by presenting new information in a way that encourages the other person to consider and internalize that information, instead of rejecting it outright.

As most of us have preexisting mental models, it is hard to change one’s mind and completely eliminate the various cognitive biases.

  1. Start with an open mind about people who disagree with you.
  2. Question your own assumptions and beliefs, aiming to understand the big picture and taking a holistic view.
  3. Be critical of sources that support your own belief.
  4. Come into the other person’s shoes and see things from their point of view, deeply and sincerely.
  5. Even if people understand your point of view, they may still stick with theirs due to their status, appearance or position.
  6. If you encounter new information, try to be curious and intrigued instead of defensive.