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Peak Oil Matters

A fresh perspective on the concept of peak oil and the challenges we face

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Tag: confirmation bias

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Now would be an excellent time to ponder for a moment or two just how many more problems we want to create, how many more options we want to take off the table, and how many burdens we want to inflict on ourselves by continuing to roll down the same highway without full discussions and disclosures about all of the energy considerations we need to focus on. That won’t always be a happy tale to tell, and it won’t always flatter key players, but it will get more of us thinking and planning and preparing for a different but not necessarily “worse” future.

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The urgency with which the United States and the world treats energy issues has to do in part with whether the public thinks there is a problem. And, Americans don’t think there is a problem with low-priced energy as is evidenced by a political past

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Scientists say there’s a tension in the brain between responding to new information and resisting overwhelming amounts of conflicting data—and the latter can prevent opinion change.
Altering opinion depends on using different psychological methods tailored to different types of belief.… ‘There’s not much convincing people,’ even when the beliefs in question are purely false, says psychiatrist Philip Corlett of Yale University School of Medicine.

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It’s a lot easier to seek confirmation than information.
So not only does the online world provide less information, it provides more spin and distortion of that information from an online empire of advocates that enables us as never before to find the voices we agree with, and to ignore anybody else.

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As cognitive dissonance theory would predict, people tend to avoid information that is dissonant with their current beliefs and seek consonant information …, especially when they are already committed to a particular position … and/or the information is self-relevant. [Citations in original] *

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As cognitive dissonance theory would predict, people tend to avoid information that is dissonant with their current beliefs and seek consonant information, especially when they are already committed to a particular position [citations in original pdf]

I’ll conclude this portion of the series with some unedited comments about President Obama by anonymous readers of the American Thinker article discussed in prior posts. It’s a remarkable but unfortunately not uncommon sampling of what passes for reasoned responses—at least for those having any relevance at all to the article about our future energy supply and its dismissive treatment of any concerns about fossil fuel production—from a too-large segment of the far Right on almost any issue dividing Left from Right. That’s not to say those on the Left don’t contribute their share of discord, but from my very unscientific observations over a numbers of years, the personal attacks are far fewer; and one finds more substantiation of the positions taken.

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I’ve mentioned in the prior posts of this series that there were two articles posted online a number of weeks ago *  which caught my attention for reasons which at first puzzled me. No disrespect intended either author, but the contents of each were fairly routine offerings by those who clearly have not accepted the rationale of Peak Oil [and/or climate change] and have a decidedly anti-liberal/progressive perspective about … probably everything. Not exactly unusual these days, is it?

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I ended last week’s post on the topic of Confirmation Bias* with these questions:

After all, who among us wants to be wrong about important matters on which we’ve staked no small amount of credibility?

But what if being wrong about those important matters winds up being the least of our problems?

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I’ll confess that I hesitated before starting this series. It was too easy to again just dive into mockery and sarcasm over pieces written several weeks ago by those who refuse to give credence to the concept of peak oil and/or its implications. [It’s also the gateway to yet another round of verbal grenade lobbing which generates a lot of high-five’s with fellow ideologues, but little else.]

I’ve contributed my share of mocking on numerous occasions, to be sure. It’s just part of the ongoing Left-Right hostilities….Tiresome. Pointless. Embarrassing. Damaging … always.

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Confirmation bias is the tendency of individuals to pay attention to or believe information that confirms the personal values and beliefs they already hold, rather than allowing their beliefs to be changed by new information.
It’s a powerful force that many researchers have suggested plays a key role in the persistence of phenomena such as climate doubt. With an overwhelming abundance of evidence pointing to the existence of anthropogenic climate change, for instance, many scientists have questioned why skepticism continues to be pervasive in society. Sociologists have suggested that the reason has to do with the fact that it’s difficult to change an individual’s worldview simply by presenting new information. Confirmation bias, rather, leads people to seek out evidence — however small or poorly supported — that supports their existing personal beliefs. [1]

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