My day in a nutshell:
1) Get up, log into my Google Reader, read blogs that I subscribe to
2) Check twitter, read tweets (many by the same people who’s blogs I just read)
3) Open up the assignment that I am determined to finish before I go to class (because I won’t be beaten by procrastination – not this time anyway).
3) Click on links that take me directly to articles on websites that I would normally frequent anyway
4) Open up my facebook account, read feeds from anyone that has ever been associated with anything that I have ever ‘liked’
5) Make some lunch (yes it it lunchtime already – I got distracted by talking to my friends in the USA because it is night there)
6) Still a few hours to do my assignment.… A podcast that I subscribe to just came through on my phone.
7) The host suggested an interesting website at the end of the show – I’ll just check that out.
8) DAMNIT I am late for Uni!
As I run out the door I am faced with a fork in the cognitive road. I can either:
The first option causes “cognitive dissonance” – the evidence is challenging my perceptions of myself as a determined and motivated person.
The second option maintains “cognitive consonance” – it maintains my determined and motivated self-perception at the expense of, well…the reality.
I am going to go with the consonance because I don’t like having my beliefs challenged.
As it turns out noone else does either. In a study of people’s preferences to reading political literature 36% more time was spent reading reports that agreed with the reader’s political leanings (Knobloch-Westerwick and Jingbo Meng, 2009). People tended to avoid articles that challenged their political ideology.
But at least it is not 100%, you might say, at least they are being exposed somewhat to other views. In a lab maybe. The reality these days is different. Self-selecting material and denying evidence was not my only problems today. If I happened to accidentally find myself ‘surfing’ the web (unlikely) all the content that is displayed is selected for me by google based on my past internet use. Gone are the days when I could outsmart Google with a proxy server or IP mask, now they get everything they need from my Gmail + and YouTube accounts, no matter where I am in the World!
So, if everyone is self-selecting their information exposure and discarding anything that doesn’t align with what they want to believe, can we ever change people’s perceptions or attitudes?
Or are we all just preaching to the converted?
Knobloch-Westerwick, S., & Meng, J. (2009). Looking the other way: Selective exposure to attitude-consistent and counterattitudinal political information. Communication Research, 36(3), 426-448.