Yahoo Flunks A Confirmation Bias Test

Just as you always suspected: THIS is the average Fox News viewer.

Just as you always suspected: THIS is the average Fox News viewer.

Be honest now: If you were a news editor and this press release came across your desk, what would you think? What would you do?

Birmingham, Alabama (PRWEB)

December 04, 2012

The results of a 4 year study show that Americans who obtain their news from Fox News channel have an average IQ of 80, which represents a 20 point deficit when compared to the U.S. national average of 100. IQ, or intelligence quotient, is the international standard of assessing intelligence. Researchers at The Intelligence Institute, a conservative non-profit group, tested 5,000 people using a series of tests that measure everything from cognitive aptitude to common sense and found that people who identified themselves as Fox News viewers and ‘conservative’ had, on average, significantly lower intelligent quotients. Fox Viewers represented 2,650 members of the test group.

One test involved showing subjects a series of images and measuring their vitals, namely pulse rate and blood pressure. The self-identified conservatives’ vitals increased over 35% when shown complex or shocking images. The image that caused the most stress was a poorly edited picture of President Obama standing next to a “ghostly” image of a child holding a tarantula. Test subjects who received their news from other outlets or reported they do not watch the news scored an average IQ of 104, compared to 80 for Fox News viewers.

Lead researcher, P. Nichols, explains, “Less intelligent animals rely on instinct when confronted by something which they do not understand. This is an ancient survival reaction all animals, including humans, exhibit. It’s a very simple phenomenon, really; think about a dog being afraid of a vacuum cleaner. He doesn’t know what a vacuum is or if it may harm him, so he becomes agitated and barks at it. Less intelligent humans do the same thing. Concepts that are too complex for them to understand, may frighten or anger them.” He continues, “Fox News’ content is presented at an elementary school level and plays directly into the fears of the less educated and less intelligent.”

The researchers said that an IQ of 80 is well above the score of 70, which is where psychiatrists diagnose mental retardation. P. Nichols says an IQ of 80 will not limit anyone’s ability to lead happy, fulfilling lives.

The study did not conclude if Fox News contributed to lowering IQ or if it attracts less intelligent humans.

P. Nichols concludes that he wasn’t shocked by the studies’ results, rather how dramatic their range. “Several previous studies show that self-identified conservatives are less intelligent than self-identified moderates. We have never seen such a homogeneous group teetering so close to special needs levels.”

P. Nichols
The Intelligence Institute

Might you be just a teensy-weensy bit skeptical of these findings? Suspect a hoax, perhaps? Wonder what “The Intelligence Institute” is? If not, it’s probably because your liberal college professors, the mainstream media and the Angry Left has brainwashed you into believing that anyone who disagrees with them are morons (as well as racists, of course). This is confirmation bias, my friends, and if we aren’t stupid already, confirmation bias will slowly but surely get us there, for it destroys our ability to process any information that doesn’t support our per-conceived notions. Then, after accumulating the appropriate skepticism about this dubious press release, might you research the background of the researchers and the methodology of the study itself? Check for credentials, mayhap? Would you try meet the bare minimum standards of journalistic integrity and diligence before publishing the report as fact?

Not if you work for Yahoo News, apparently. If you work there, you see the release and say, “Yup! That’s what I’ve always suspected all along!” Then, without checking anything at all, you  publish this press release as if it was from the Carnegie Institute or MIT.

Of course the study was bogus. There is no “Intelligence Institute.” The study itself hasn’t been made available. When “P. Nichols” was questioned, he said the study was created for a political client that wanted to get a particular message into the news stream. He also admitted that the methodology was designed to get a desired result. In my opinion, the dishonest researchers didn’t even make a credible effort to fake a believable study. An average IQ of 80 would mean that about half of all Fox News audience members would be borderline mentally-challenged, at the outer boundary of what was once commonly called “retarded.”  They would display such characteristics as “limited trainability.,,difficulty with everyday demands like using a phone book, reading bus or train schedules, banking, filling out forms, using appliances like a video recorder, microwave oven or computer, etcetera, and …require assistance from relatives or social agencies in the management of their affairs,” allowing them to “be employed in simple tasks”  even then “requiring supervision.” People like this are given an intellectual workout when they try watching Nickelodeon. Who believes that they gravitate to news channels? Sean Hannity may be simplistic, but he’s not THAT simplistic. Or that entertaining.

Yahoo owes an apology to anyone who takes the website’s news reporting seriously for feeding them the news equivalent of raw sewage, as well as to Fox News and its viewers. (I’m sure one will not be forthcoming.) Was this an aberration in the news media, or peculiar to Yahoo? I see no reason to believe either. The arrogance, narrow-mindedness, laziness, bias and poor news judgment that Yahoo’s conduct here exemplifies is epidemic throughout the media, and its mishandling of it vital public duties of fair, diligent and competent reporting surfaces regularly, if not so blatantly. George Zimmerman is suing NBC for repeatedly broadcasting an edited version of his 911 call about Trayvon Martin, a tape that made him sound like a racist at the very moment when black vigilante groups were trying to hunt him down and kill him. Whether or not Zimmerman can prove that NBC’s mistake was malicious, it was still part of the same syndrome that led Yahoo to make fools of themselves: biased, not terribly open-minded or intelligent journalists interpreting data to confirm their static and narrow world-view, rather than objectively seeking the truth regardless of where it leads.

_______________________

Pointer: Instapundit

Sources: The PJ Tatler; Yahoo News

Graphic:

17 thoughts on “Yahoo Flunks A Confirmation Bias Test

  1. Might you be just a teensy-weensy bit skeptical of these findings? Suspect a hoax, perhaps? Wonder what “The Intelligence Institute” is? If not, it’s probably because your liberal college professors, the mainstream media and the Angry Left has brainwashed you into believing that anyone who disagrees with them are morons (as well as racists, of course).

    I suspected BS by the end of the first sentence (on top of everything else, why would it take four years to conduct a non-longitudinal study?). My bet is that most intelligent liberals will do the same, especially if they have enough background to have any idea what an 80 IQ would mean.

    But i wish you could see the irony in the passage i quoted. Yes, it would take a liberal with confirmation bias not to question this study as reported. And it takes a conservative with confirmation bias to believe that “liberal college professors’ and “the mainstream media” have ‘brainwashed” all those liberals. Do you even hear yourself? How much you sound like Bill O’Reilly or Glenn Beck?

    They haven’t been brainwashed, any more than you’re brainwashed. They’re just political partisans with strong confirmation bias.

    • Are you suggesting that people like Glenn Beck and O’Reilly are wrong about everything? This is the Cognitive Dissonance Drag in spades. Somethimes you and Ed Schultz agree, but just because Ed is a biased idiot, it doesn’t mean you are. The oppressive liberal bias in major universities is well-documented and I would wonder about anyone of any partisan persuasion who denied it. I did go to Harvard, you know—I witnessed this stuff. My favorite teacher was biologist George Wald, but to say that he wasn’t a relentless anti-Vietnam Leftist would be denying the undeniable. My first year economics professor was John Kenneth Galbreath. I didn’t get a lot of ideological diversity. Some of us were more malleable than others.

      From the dead center, which is where I tend to land, the bias of such institutions as the media and academia are ridiculously obvious. I recognize that from the view point of someone on the hard Left, this may be impossible to discern, which is why people like you should pay attention to people like me when we call attention to it. The statement you were quoting refers to the Left echo chamber, the equivalent of the echo chamber on the right where people spend all their time reading The Weekly Standard, watching O’Reilly (who is a pin-head) and Beck (who is nuts) while boycotting the Times and ABC News. Those people believe birther conspiracies. That’s confirmation bias too.

      • Of course I don’t think they’re wrong about everything. No one’s wrong about everything. But the “brainwashing” narrative is partisan garbage. It’s the sort of sneering language partisans use to describe their opposition. The word “brainwashing” has a real meaning, and to claim that left-wingers have been “brainwashed” into their views is either dishonest or stupid. (Ditto for anyone claiming that Fox “brainwashes” its audience.)

        The statement you were quoting refers to the Left echo chamber, the equivalent of the echo chamber on the right where people spend all their time reading The Weekly Standard, watching O’Reilly (who is a pin-head) and Beck (who is nuts) while boycotting the Times and ABC News. Those people believe birther conspiracies. That’s confirmation bias too.

        False equivalence.

        I never even heard of this study before I read about it on your blog. I just searched my google reader feed (which contains the full text of hundreds of blogs, mostly left-wing, some VERY left, although there are a few right-wingers too) for “Intelligence Institute,” and found exactly one blog mentioning it – a blog called “Ethics Alarms.”

        I searched for it on Daily Kos (a hyper-partisan site I don’t usually read), and found two posts about it – one declaring it a fake in the headline (I’d sum up the article’s pov as “yes, right-wingers are stupid, but this study is a fake”), and one where the person posting it was forced to retract it after dozens of people posted comments pointing out that it’s a fake.

        Birthers are a huge portion of conservatives (between a quarter and a half), and they include presidential primary candidates and elected representatives. In contrast, no one on the left is paying any attention to this study, and even on a site as hard-core partisan as Daily Kos, there are effective fact-checking mechanisms so that Kos readers learn that this study is a hoax. And a week from now, everyone but some right-wingers will have forgotten that this hoax study ever existed, but the Birthers will be just as active as ever.

        Ordinary levels of cognitive bias operates commonly on both the left and the right, without a doubt. But the extraordinary denial of reality it would take to sustain belief in Birther conspiracy theories, or belief in this ridiculous hoax study, is widespread on the right but relatively uncommon on the left.

        • “But the extraordinary denial of reality it would take to sustain belief in Birther conspiracy theories, or belief in this ridiculous hoax study, is widespread on the right but relatively uncommon on the left.”

          Barry, this statement itself is an example of the phenomenon. The belief, to cite one example, that the Right is a sinister a white male conspiracy determined to deny women and minorities equality and their rights is every bit as irrational as birtherism, and given a lot more credibility by the media.

          On a more technical point, I think the use of the term “brainwashing” in a hyperbolic sense (“indoctrination” is more accurate) is neither misleading nor unreasonable. I assume readers don’t mean I an suggesting that they have been subjected to sensory deprivation, tortured, drugged and “turned’ like the GI in “Homeland.”

          • (By the way, as Republican refusal to acknowledge reality goes, Birthers are pretty harmless, because nothing about their delusions comes with a specific policy agenda (“oppose Obama” isn’t specific). I’m more frightened by Global Warming Denialists, who within the Republican party are elevated to important positions concerning science policy, and who have far greater potential to do harm with their beliefs.)

            Barry, this statement itself is an example of the phenomenon. The belief, to cite one example, that the Right is a sinister a white male conspiracy determined to deny women and minorities equality and their rights is every bit as irrational as birtherism, and given a lot more credibility by the media.

            Well, i suppose that depends on what you mean by “conspiracy.” If you mean that left-wingers believe that all the white men get together in a secret clubhouse and plot to keep everyone else down while laughing like ‘moo-hoo-hoo-ha!,” then virtually no one believes that.

            If you mean that left-wingers believe that GOP strategists are aware of the racial dynamics of voting preferences and are motivated to try and reduce non-white voter turnout (just as Democrats are motivated to increase non-white voter turnout), then sure, I believe that. But that’s hardly an unreasonable belief on the order of birtherism.

            If you mean that that the GOP pursues policies that go against the best interests of both many women and many minority groups, again, I believe that, and so do most liberals. But that’s not a conspiracy theory. Nor is believing that sexism and racism (and other bigotries, like anti-gay bias) exist and effect people’s behaviors (often unconsciously) a conspiracy theory.

            In no case, however, does your equalization make any logical sense. Believing that sexism and racism exist is not the same as believing that there is a massive conspiracy to hide the true birthplace of the President of the United States.

            • Which isn’t what I said, as I know. Just listen to, say, Chris Matthews almost any day of the week, who has been ranting that conservatives WANT to see women and blacks discriminated against. We’re talking malice and intent, not results. Conservatives may oppose policies that would benefit minority groups, like never ending affirmative action or reparations, or state-funded contraception, yet the belief that this is based on malice and animus toward the group affected is no less than slander. I would make the same statement about voter ID laws, but I’m sick of the argument. Or, if you don’t like that part of liberal cant, how about the followers of Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and the “America is evil” historical revisionists? They are bats, and I would argue that their willingness to swallow an ideologically distorted view of the past is far less reasonable than doubting complex, politically conflicted and admittedly fallible projections about what’s going to happen to the planet’s climate decades in the future.

              Meanwhile, the Yahoo-published study was only the most absurd of a long line of “Conservatives are dumb, so we must be right” studies” that have been concocted by academics with an agenda over the years, like this one, or worse, this one, another hoax. They are all products of varying degrees of researcher bias, cheered by media sufferers from confirmation bias. That’s why I flagged it. Yes, it’s extreme, but just raise the IQ to a reasonable level, or use squishier terms like “more rigid” or “less informed,” and Paul Krugman nods knowingly. When George Will said to him this Sunday on ABC, “I have yet to encounter someone who disagrees with you who you don’t think is a knave or corrupt or a corrupt knave, he summed up the attitude of both ends of the partisan combatant spectrum perfectly. How anyone, especially a smart and fair man like you, can seriously argue that the malady is worse on one side or the other is a dark mystery to me.

              Read more: http://newsbusters.org/#ixzz2Eh8bxjrv

              • 1.

                You keep on shifting your goalposts, Jack. At first it was brainwashing, but then you said oh no, that was just hyperbolic prose. Then you said that there are lefty conspiracy theories that are comparable to Birtherism. Now you’ve moved the goalposts again; now, instead of conspiracy theories, you’re talking about the tendency to assume that people who disagree with you are acting out of bad motives.

                Well, I agree. Americans in general, or at least those of us who are politically engaged, seem to constantly assume bad faith on the part of all who disagree. I see it all the time on the left, and on the right. And although there’s no survey evidence about this (that I’m aware of), it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it were approximately equal on both sides.

                But to claim that’s the same as believing in outright conspiracy theories like Birtherism seems pretty ridiculous to me.

                2.

                As for the accuracy of climate modeling, maybe you’re right, despite your lack of expertise, and despite the fact that the last time you made a testable prediction about statistical modeling, you revealed yourself to be a great deal less accurate than Nate Silver.

                Maybe the 98% or so of actual climate scientists are engaged in some sort of massive conspiracy to deceive the public so that they can get some government grants, as many conservatives have claimed. Or maybe the overwhelming scientific consensus is simply mistaken. It’s possible.

                But it’s also possible – and, objectively, seems much more likely – that science is correct, and people like you and James Inhofe – people who, while extremely intelligent, aren’t experts on climate science – are mistaken.

                Think of how certain you, and most Conservatives, were that Nate Silver was a fool. That was an error with no real consequences for anyone, because in the end, election forecasts are trivial. (We could do without forecasts entirely and be much better off for it.)

                The consequences of conservative denial of reality, when it comes to climate change, are anything but trivial. Unlike Birthers and Nate Silver, there are terrible consequences to ignoring reality when it comes to climate. If the climate experts are right, extreme weather events will happen more often, as will droughts; people will suffer and die, economies will crash, food chains will break, homes will be destroyed. In response to this, conservatives say it’s worth risking all that in order to avoid the possibility of slower economic growth caused by inefficient spending and regulations.

                If you think that there’s even a 50% chance that the experts are right and you (and others, including a handful of scientists, almost none of whom are experts on climate) are mistaken, then I don’t see how obstructing climate mitigation policy is anything other than horribly irresponsible. And seriously, Jack: There’s a way, way, WAY more than 50% chance that the experts are right and you are mistaken.

                3.

                Thanks for your compliment about my intelligence. However, research has shown that more intelligent people are just as subject to confirmation bias, and possibly more subject to it. Alas for us.

                • 1. Glad you agree. But there was no goalpost moving.
                  2. Don’t compare me to Inhofe. I have never dnied that global warming is occurring, or that there is a conspiracy. I correctly point out that the degree, duration and impact of the phenomenon is far less certain than it is being represented in the media and by the Nancy Pelosis of the world (you know–morons), and the scientific consensus on these matters is far, far less than the supposed unanimity claimed by people who can’t read the data themselves. This makes demands for crippling and expensive remedies insane on their face.
                  3. I was sincere. And you are, sadly, right.

                  • 1. Unless you’re arguing that attributing bad motives to those you disagree with (a practice you yourself engage in frequently) is the same as believing conspiracy theories, your goalposts moved.

                    2. You and Inhofe are alike in the most important way: Both of you favor inaction.

                    Is anyone in a serious policy-making position calling for “crippling” remedies? Who? Let’s see you substantiate your claim with a quote, or some sort of evidence from a reasonable source.

                    Since you don’t support any of your claims about lack of scientific consensus with any evidence or citations, they are garbage claims and I will ignore them.

                    (How would you even substantiate a claim that any particular policy would “cripple” the economy, without contradicting your claim that models are useless?)

                    It’s not like you take a reasonable, moderate position of opposing extreme solutions but favoring reasonable mitigation. You’ve said before that you oppose all policy attempts at mitigating climate change, and certainly the candidates I’ve seen you support (most obviously, Romney) oppose all such mitigation. Has that position changed? If not, then your claim to be different from Inhofe in any way that matters is mistaken.

    • Mrs. Miller, that’s a 2005 article about a study with data from 1999. I don’t doubt that it’s real, but I do wonder if it’s current.

      That said, I agree that most college faculty are left-wing. But unless you assume all left-wingers are evil and engaging in a widespread brainwashing conspiracy, the mere fact that left-wingers teach doesn’t prove that they’re “brainwashing” students. In fact, as someone points out in the article you linked, students generally have the same values after graduation that they do before they entered college.

  2. I’m going to give Yahoo! something of a pass here. The primary problem is not Yahoo! per se, but rather PRWeb, the distribution service via which the press release was distributed.

    Many news sites, including Yahoo!, routinely and automatically run press releases from large distribution services. These include PRNewswire, BusinessWire and, unfortunately, PRWeb.

    I know from first hand experience as a customer that PRNewswire and BusinessWire maintain strict editorial control over releases transmitted on their networks. I have never heard of a hoax originating from either, but this is NOT the first time that a scurrilous hoax has been transmitted on PRWeb and assumed to be real. In fact, just a few weeks ago PRWeb transmitted a hoax release falsely claiming the purchase of a company by Google (see: http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/28/tech/web/google-icoa-fake-news/index.html)

    I think a case could be made that Yahoo! is LAZY, given PRWeb’s dubious history, and should consider human review before allowing PRWeb releases to to live. But forget about confirmation bias. I think it’s a safe bet that no human working for Yahoo! actually laid eyes on it before it went up.

  3. Well, again, I find it hard to hold Yahoo! specifically at fault here, unless we’re critiquing the use of algorithms instead of human editorial control (Drudge Report is edited by humans. Google News selects stories based on algorithms. Which is the more trustworthy source?).

    Yahoo’s pickup is not limited to press releases; they also re-transmit material from a wide variety of sources, including the Associated Press and, in this case, SLOG – an alt-paper out of Seattle.

    Trace it back and we see that Yahoo! didn’t write the headline. At minimum, SLOG did – and in this case, it’s more likely that the headline was actually written by the columnist/blogger who posted the item.

    That individual, interestingly enough, is Dan Savage. Savage writes a syndicated sex advice column. He’s the guy behind the google-bombing of Rick Santorum to give the word “Santorum” a rather vile definition (which Jack has written about here).

  4. Unbelievable, it is just unbelievable. The results are fishy, but the explanation is just insane. The only way you could possibly believe that is if you had never taken an intelligence test. That is like saying that 5000 people were questioned and it was found that fans of NPR were 20% less intelligent than fans of NASCAR. The methodology used was that they were asked how much red meat they ate each week. A diet with inadequate protein and iron results in improper brain formation. People who eat more red meat are more intelligent.

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