Confirmation bias: a lever for disinformation in times of health crisis

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As part of the series “How do we make information”, the result of a collaboration between Agence Science-Presse and École branchée, we are now interested in confirmation bias. Zoom in on why we are inclined to believe fake news. Hint: the fault lies largely with our brain!

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As part of the series “How do we make information”, the result of a collaboration between Agence Science-Presse and École branchée, we are now interested in confirmation bias. Confirmation bias refers to the tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms our existing beliefs and opinions. It is part of the large family of cognitive biases, those shortcuts that our brain performs and which are liable to mislead us.

Why are we inclined to believe fake news? It is definitely not because we are not smart or turned on! In fact, much of the fault lies ... with our brains. We must therefore develop the right reflexes to bypass confirmation bias and be able to exercise our critical judgment at all times. Unfortunately, confirmation bias is a powerful lever for disinformation, polarization and even radicalization. The health crisis that we have been experiencing for several months amplifies these phenomena and increasingly divides the population:

" When the number of cases is low or declining, the health activist will see proof of the validity of the measures, the coronasceptic will say that they are now unnecessary. When cases are on the rise, some are calling for more muscular measures, others see it as proof that they do not work. With the result that we advance in this second wave and in a possible third in rows destined to become more and more dispersed. "

Le Journal de Montréal, October 14, 2020

You can download right here an infographic to remind your students of the good reflexes to adopt to circumvent this mental shortcut par excellence that is the confirmation bais.


 

SUGGESTED ACTIVITIES

Disciplines and levels targeted

-ECR (3rd cycle of elementary school)
Theme: people who are members of society
• Explain how members of a society influence each other.

-ECR (1st cycle of secondary)
Theme: autonomy
• Foster the conditions for autonomy: critical judgment, common sense, moral responsibility, the ability to choose, authenticity, etc.

Targeted dimensions of digital competence

  • Developing and mobilizing information literacy
  • Harnessing the potential of digital technology for learning
  • Developing critical thinking with regard to the use of digital technology
  • Producing content with digital
  • Innovate and be creative with digital

Suggested digital tools

  • To think and react: Mentimeter
  • To draw a sketch-note: Tayasui Sketches or Paper
  • To create an infographic: Canva

Educational intention of the guide

At the end of these activities, students will be able to recognize their own cognitive biases and use tools to get around them.

Objectives of the activities

  • Think about the consequences of using social media for information.
  • Develop a sketch-note to define the portrait of your information bubble.
  • Create an infographic that highlights good practices to succeed in getting out of your bubble
    informational.

Awareness

Watch this capsule by comedian Louis T. who popularizes very well what confirmation bias is:

Louis T., September 7, 2020

Ask the pupils to reflect on the reflex they have when they read a news item on their favorite social network. Do they believe this news because it seems truthful and reliable to them or because it makes them feel good?


Confirmation bias

Au menu de cette fiche d’activités :

  • Exercice 1 : Plusieurs études démontrent que de plus en plus de Canadiens s’informent via les réseaux sociaux. Quelles sont les conséquences de cette habitude?
  • Exercice 2 : Faites le portrait de votre bulle informationnelle. Ces questions pourraient vous aider à trouver quelques éléments de réponse : (…)
  • Exercice 3 : Identifiez deux moyens de sortir de votre bulle informationnelle.

À PROPOS DE CETTE SÉRIE SPÉCIALE

À travers huit fiches pédagogiques, les élèves seront amenés à se placer dans la peau d’un journaliste et à réaliser des activités créées spécialement pour les éclairer sur diverses facettes de la production de l’information à l’ère des réseaux sociaux. 

La conception des différentes fiches pédagogiques a été rendue possible grâce à la collaboration entre l’Science-Press Agency and École branchée. Each sheet contains a theoretical part on a specific subject relating to the production of information, in addition to activities that tend to develop various disciplinary and digital skills in the student.

Check out the other guides in this special feature:

Sheet #1: Information vs opinion

Sheet #2: How to recognize a reliable news site

Sheet #3: Journalistic sources

Sheet #5: How to recognize hidden advertising

Sheet #6: News media

File #7: Scientific information

Sheet #8: Disinformation


TO KNOW MORE

Confirmation Bias – La Tronche en Biais #5
YouTube, November 29, 2015

Coronavirus: how our brain skews our perception of the epidemic
RTBF, September 29, 2020

Quebec elected officials targeted by a campaign of anti-health measures
Radio-Canada, October 14, 2020

Thematic workshops: how to fight disinformation
Les Décrypteurs de Radio-Canada


SCOOP! this is...
 

Designed to fill short periods or inspire larger projects, the activities offered in the SCOOP! allow the teacher to approach the subject matter in the program in addition to developing the information literacy and digital skills of the students.

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