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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

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Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Today's Big Idea: Confirmation Bias

The Big Idea for Friday, September 21, 2012

How can we look at compelling evidence that is right in front of us and draw conclusions that directly contradict that evidence? 

It is easy to spot this confirmation bias in other people, particularly those you disagree with. And yet, it is harder to recognize how we all possess this bias. An insight from the filmmaker Errol Morris helps explain why. 

When we confront a situation -- especially if it is something as traumatic as a murder scene -- our minds develop a narrative to make sense of what happened. After this "theory" of what happened is firmly entrenched in our minds, we become blind to evidence that might not fit this theory. 

It is therefore important to know how our minds censor information in order to know how susceptible we all are to untruth. So how do we avoid it?

Perspectives

  1. 1 Errol Morris: Disbelieving is Seeing
    Daniel Honan Think Tank
  2. 2 Max Bazerman: Blind Spots, Bernie Madoff's and Ours
    Max Bazerman
  3. 3 Thinking, Fast and Slow...About Staying Alive. What Kahneman's Classic DOESN'T Include.
    David Ropeik Risk: Reason and Reality
  4. 4 Evidence is More Important Than Outrage: An Introduction
    Tauriq Moosa Against the New Taboo
 

Today's Big Idea: Confirmat...

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