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Biases affect all of us, and we are all prone to committing fallacious reasoning at times. This discussion allows us to investigate some of our own sources of biases and ways in which we may be prone to fall for fallacious reasoning.
Prepare: Complete “The Parking Garage (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.” and “Buying a Car (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.” interactive modules. Read Chapters 8 of our book, paying special attention to ways in which people are affected by biases (including the sections “Stereotypes” and “Purpose and Potential Bias” in Chapter 8).
Reflect: Think about why you made the choices you made in each scenario. Do those choices tell you anything about yourself and the way that you think? Would you do anything different if you were to do it again?
Write: Based on your experiences in each scenario, address the following:
Part 1: Why did you take the route you did in the parking garage scenario? Did you notice that you had preconceptions about different types of people and situations? Could those types of preconceptions ever lead to problematic inferences?
Part 2: In the Buying a Car scenario, did you feel that the salesman had ulterior motives? Did they lead him to have any biases in terms of what he wanted you to purchase? Point out some of the biases that you have in real life. Are you an interested party when it comes to certain types of questions? How does that potentially cloud your judgment? Relate your answer to the content about biases in Chapter 8.
In the first interactive module, “The Parking Garage, I chose the second option or the elevator. I eliminated the first option since we’re described as being sick with a headache, and the teens in the stairway are making “raucous” noise. Since this means exceptionally loud, I figured it would probably make the headaches worse. Plus, being sick leads me to tend to avoid coming into contact with others to help reduce chances of spreading infection.
I eliminated the third option since those stairs are too far to travel and requires the most work. It’s also dark, and this raises some worry. Again, since we’re supposed to be sick, I decided to try the easiest route.
I chose the second option since it looks like it takes the least energy and only involves interaction with one person. It looks like the third option would be safest for others, but I also took my own situation into account too.
I did have some preconceptions. First, I think I might have been biased against the teens since they’re being loud. While I felt it best to avoid contact for their sake, I also wondered why they were being so loud. This bias can lead to problematic situations in that it can lead to false beliefs. In this case, the teens are celebrating an academic victory, much like the teens overseas in one of the new Spider Man movies. This sounds like a good cause for celebration, so my bias could have led to false assumptions about their integrity.
I did not think much about the man in baggy clothes by the elevator in the second scenario, but I did wonder why he was in dirty clothes to begin with. A bias here could have related to one about homeless people. I tend to try to avoid them in order to avoid panhandlers, and this can lead to false beliefs that could hinder initial communication. In this case, the man is merely a maintenance man who just replaced a broken light bulb.
I notice that one of the worries I had with the third and final scenario is that it was described as “dark”. This description recalls a primal fear due to our evolutionary history. In this case, recall that appeals to fear are notoriously unreliable. This is why they’re typically classified as logical fallacies unless warranted.
In regards to the second interactive module this week, “Buying a Car”, I noticed that Duane ignored my requests to purchase a used car and only spent time trying to convince me to buy the car of his recommendation instead. Not coincidentally, this turned out to be the new car … the opposite car of my choosing. This is one way I think we can spot his bias, because apart from a sentence or two he only ever presents information for one side. For example, he only presents an argument for his choice and not yours. This limits your ability to make the most informed judgment based on all the facts. Here’s the argument he presented:
P1: There is of course a manufacturer’s warranty.
P2: A new car is worry free – it’s in perfect shape.
P3: Your car will have better fuel efficiency and all the new safety features.
P4: Who doesn’t like looking good in a new ride?
P5: The great new car smell.
C: It [new] is really the best way to go when buying a car.
Relating his presentation to the material in our assigned reading this week, I noticed a few things.
By choosing to focus on only the positive things about buying a new car, he may be guilty of cherry picking and so displaying a ‘selection bias‘ (Hardy et al 8.1 2015). After all, he does state that new cars are “worry free – perfect shape”. This is misleading since a new car could theoretically have a problem while a used car is just as likely to be in great condition as long as it’s been maintained properly too. He also urges you to buy a new car “because you’ll look cooler” and this introduces a kind of ‘bandwagon effect‘ (Hardy et al 8.1 2015) or interest to be popular and do what “everyone else is doing…”
He also uses some rhetorical devices in his pitch. Notice how his claims in support of a new car are stated as matters of fact when they are not actually guaranteed by anything, i.e. perfect shape, etc. This is an example of a proof surrogate device (Hardy el al 8.2 2015). We could ask him, “how many of their new and used cars are serviced for problems after their sales?” This would allow us to make a comparative judgment about the quality of the used vs new cars on the lot. Of course, he doesn’t present any evidence to support his claims.
This material related to biases I have in my own life, because I tend to favor sources in research with which I already agree. This is called a confirmation bias, and as a result I tend to be more selective of sources favorable to my own positions, assumptions, and ideas. I’m definitely and interest party when it comes to questions to which I already have a stronger commitment about the answers. This can potentially cloud my judgment in that it makes it harder to accept the truth of opposing claims. For this reason, it takes some effort and being deliberate and disciplined in applying the material we’ve been learning about in order to minimize the effects my own biases have on my critical judgments. Doing so will help me learn easier and continue to grow. This should also help in face-to-face communication in that it promotes a sociable charity towards the ideas of others, especially when people disagree.
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