Time to pay attention to bias
By Laura Garcia, FIBEP President
In times of misinformation, fake news and “infodemia”, there is a concept that is being increasingly used and is worth paying particular attention to: that of bias. Although it is not a new concept and there is a multiplicity of cognitive biases, some of them impact particularly on our ecosystem. The confirmation bias, the selection bias, the survival bias, the confusion or correlation bias, and the expert bias are some of the most important.
In the age of Artificial Intelligence, algorithms and hyper-targeting, the confirmation bias, which leads us to consume information that is in line with our preexisting beliefs, preferences and expectations, becomes increasingly profound. As we are constantly providing the algorithms with data about our preferences, they are increasingly able to bring us the information that makes us feel more comfortable. Our services can also be involuntary promoting this bias.
This not only prevents us from being well informed, but ultimately leads to the radicalization of thought. If we only listen to and validate a way of thinking, and do not broaden or question it, sooner or later we become intolerant citizens. And when there is no longer any tolerance, the very foundations of our democratic coexistence begin to crack.
Another very common bias is the survival bias, in reference to information survival. As we know, information needs to endure over time and continue to convince us, and this often leads us to lose the sense of what is really relevant. We tend to confuse the presence of an information or the fact that a content is being commented by many people, with the real importance of that information. In this sense, we should be increasingly attentive to the context in which certain information is reproduced, to avoid falling into a survival bias.
The expert bias became particularly relevant in the context of Covid-19. An expert can give an opinion on his or her subject of expertise, but not on any subject. However, there are many examples in which experts with extensive experience gave opinions on topics that had little or nothing to do with their training, and they were wrong. The problem is that the average citizen tends to believe that since the opinion comes from an expert, it is valid. We all have the right to give our opinion, but if we do it from a place of experts, we have to do it with conscience and responsibility.
I could go on about other cognitive biases, but what really interests me is to point out that in the last years, a new information agenda has emerged that we cannot ignore. The problem of biases becomes particularly important in a context of deepening technological developments. We as an industry have a particular responsibility for the existence of these biases, and we should start paying attention to whether we are not, consciously or unconsciously, reproducing some of them within our companies. We need to start thinking of ourselves as actors in a much larger information ecosystem, and understand that any problem that affects this ecosystem, affects us as well.