Swing Bias

Swing Bias occurs when a person starts with an original thesis, swings to the opposing view to avoid confirmation bias, realizes they may have overcorrected, and swings back to the original thesis.

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Confirmation bias is the tendency to believe in things that align with our existing beliefs. It influences our daily search, interpretation, and recollection of information. Schools teach this bias to help students develop critical thinking skills.

However, there are second-order effect to this bias.

Since we are aware that confirmation bias exist, we have to consider opposing viewpoints to ensure our evaluation is well-rounded.

We can begin by identifying obvious points that are on the extreme opposite end. These points fall into the category of known-unknowns, where we simply invert our current viewpoint.

However, points along the spectrum live in the realm of unknown-unknowns.

As a result, we rely on readily available information for our research. For example, both our online searches and the people we speak to are biased.

Consider this: our primary source of information is through search engines, which ranks information based on what the engineers deem useful for consumers. How can a search engine truly understand a user’s intent and determine what is useful?

The role of a search engine is to determine what is most useful to the majority.

This bias also extends to the people we engage with for discussions as well. Even when considering the viewpoints of experts in a particular field, not all are accessible for a discussion. As such, our discussion points are biased towards the experts who are more available.

Adding to the complexity, most viewpoints fall along a spectrum rather than being at opposite ends. This means that, in addition to identifying these points (if we can even identify them), the influence they they have on a thesis needs to be weighted. And of course, the assigned weightage of these viewpoints in itself is bias.

Balancing all of these factors is more of an art than a science.

While gathering information on opposing viewpoints, we may inadvertently overcorrect our original thesis, resulting in a counter confirmation bias.

Now that we are aware of this possibility, there is nothing preventing us from overcorrecting again.