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Post Trump's Attention Span: We See What We Want to See (from Ric Mauricio)
Created by John Eipper on 02/12/19 4:58 AM

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Trump's Attention Span: We See What We Want to See (from Ric Mauricio) (John Eipper, USA, 02/12/19 4:58 am)

Ric Mauricio writes:

José Manuel de Prada wrote on February 11th: "It is a well-known fact that The Donald's attention span while reading does not go beyond a couple of paragraphs in large print."

For a "well-known fact," I didn't know that. But we do have hard evidence that the President does have limitations: 280 characters.

Here is what I've found in many people. When they believe in something, they will only read, listen, or watch anything that will bolster that belief. They refuse to even look at anything that may shake their beliefs. This is true with religion, including atheists, which is a religion in itself. Very true with politics. That is why the president only reads the National Enquirer or watches Fox News.

In fact, I was just talking with a good friend of mine about the state of the investment markets. He pointed at a chart (MACD of the Dow Industrials) and indicated to me that the markets were poised to sell off. Of course, this is what he was wishing and so, in looking at the chart, this is what he was seeing. I looked at the chart and could not see what he was seeing. That's when I realized that he was placing his own bias onto the chart. When I look at a chart, I let the chart tell me what is happening, not trying to influence my reading with my personal wishes or bias. That is why, when people ask me where I think the market is going, I answer that I have no idea, but I will let the markets (i. e. charts) tell me where it may be going.

JE comments:  Yes, it's called observer bias, but I'm proud of what I've come up with in the title of Ric Mauricio's post:  WSWWWS (we see what we want to see).  But WAIS doesn't work that way.  We make you see what you don't want to see.  As I remind our readers once a year or so, if you agree with everything you read, you must be at some other website.

So Ric--where are those blasted markets going?  My late father was fond of channeling J. P. Morgan:  they will fluctuate.

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  • Confirmatory Bias and Its Dangers to Democracy (Henry Levin, USA 02/17/19 4:02 AM)
    I think that the standard terminology for what John E calls "observer bias" is confirmatory bias. See: Lee, J. K., Choi, J., Kim, C., & Kim, Y (2014) "Social media, network heterogeneity, and opinion polarization," Journal of Communication 64 (4), 702-722.

    The social media promote the targeting of information to reinforce confirmatory bias and close minds to other perspectives. It is a particular challenge to the societal need to create democracy among the young where it is becoming more and more difficult to expose the young to a common set of values and democratic roles of civic participation.

    I published a short piece this past year on which I have been receiving sympathetic responses. School choice is a good response to private goals of families in accommodating their children, a theme emphasized by charter schools and other forms of school choice. But it is incomplete without a common experience that prepares the young to embrace their rights and responsibilities of a democratic society. Babies are not born to democracy.  Making the transition from narrow self-interest to civic participation focused on the "public good" is a serious social challenge (witness Hungary at this moment), which is undermined by public schooling based upon political ideology, religion, cultural, and philosophical beliefs that undermine the commonweal rather than forming one.

    I have written this concern in the context of the charter school movement, just seven pages and a bibliography: "Charter Schools: Rending or Mending the Nation."

    JE comments:  Henry Levin's "Rending or Mending" is a chapter in Iris Rotberg and Joshua L. Glazer (eds), Choosing Charters:  Better Schools or More Segregation? (2018).  Drop me a line if you're interested, and I'll send you the file with Hank's essay.

    Is education today undermining the commonweal instead of forming one?  With this pointed question, Hank reminds us (powerfully) that education is not just about instilling STEMy stuff.  It's a vital part of constructing functional societies.


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