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11: Confirmation Bias and Filter Bubbles

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    What is Being Filtered Out of Your Search?

    The idea of filter bubbles was introduced nearly ten years ago by Eli Pariser. The idea is that information providers are tracking your online activity in order to target what they have determined are your information needs.

    Even almost ten years later, many people still haven't heard of filter bubbles. If you haven't, you might find the information a bit unnerving. This is Pariser's TED Talk from 2011.

    Eli Pariser filter bubbles ted talk - image links to video

    Where Are We Now?

    A few years ago, Eli Pariser was interviewed by Wired magazine to discuss how Pariser's warning of filter bubbles had evolved over time.

    Reading one: From Wired website: Eli Pariser Predicted the Future. Now He Can’t Escape It by Jesse Hempel

    How We Confirm Our Own Beliefs 

    Filter bubbles are outside forces that affect the information we take in. But, there's also a lot of stuff going on in our own brains that influences the way we take in and interpret information. This is called confirmation bias.

    The next reading from Scientific American explores how people can be exposed to scientific evidence, but still have doubts. It's a good introduction to confirmation bias in this context.

    Wikipedia also has an extensive entry on confirmation bias that is well researched and has a lot of suggested readings if you want to explore this concept further. I included a link to it at the bottom of the page in further reading.

    [NOTE TO USERS OF THIS TEXTBOOK: The following reading is not freely available online. The link goes to the Los Rios Libraries MASTERfile database. You will need to see if your databases include access to this article and if not, find an alternative.]

    Reading two: Scientific American: The Science of Antiscience Thinking: Convincing people who doubt the validity of climate change and evolution to change their  beliefs requires overcoming a set of ingrained cognitive biases By: Kenrick, Douglas T., Cohen, Adam B., Neuberg, Steven L., & Cialdini Robert B.

    Bias in News

    I am a former journalist. My bachelor's degree is in journalism and I worked as a television news producer for nearly ten years before switching careers. I have been stunned to see how much the journalistic landscape has shifted in the last twenty years. Journalists used to be highly respected and objectivity was paramount.

    Now, many news outlets openly discuss and tout their political leanings. It has created an environment that makes understanding our confirmation biases even more difficult.

    There is a lot of information out there about media bias. One website I've been particularly impressed with is called I often encourage students to seek out the same story from several different news outlets to see how it has been covered. does that for you, showing the same story and its coverage from left, center, and right leaning news sources.

    I encourage you to check out the website and click around. Read a story that interests you to see how it has been covered in the three areas. We'll be exploring this more next week.

    Further Reading

    Wikipedia. (2019, March 22). Confirmation bias.

    CC BY-NC logoThis chapter was compiled, reworked, and/or written by Andi Adkins Pogue and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


    Pariser, E. (2011). Beware online “filter bubbles” [Video file]. TED

    11: Confirmation Bias and Filter Bubbles is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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