Tag Archives: confirmation bias

Retraction of major research on eating: a failure in scientific methodology, or a corrective in the process?

(by Eileen Dombrowski from OUP blog) Shock waves in the human sciences! Six more of Brian Wansink’s published papers are being retracted, Cornell University announced September 20, bringing the total to 13, and the professor has resigned in disgrace.  It is not just scientific peers who are affected as Brian Wansink’s flawed methodology is exposed and his papers are withdrawn from journals. Millions of ordinary people have also been influenced by his research on “mindless eating.”  Nutritionists and marketers alike have also based decisions on his findings.  But – what do these retractions mean for the methodology of the sciences?  And – why should we seize on this example in Theory of Knowledge?

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“Deepfakes” and TOK: more trouble ahead for critical thinking? 

(Eileen Dombrowski from OUP blog) Could the development in artificial intelligence dubbed “deepfakes” really “trigger social unrest, political controversy, international tensions” and “even lead to war”? Have our previous methods of telling fact from fiction been irremediably undermined? As teachers, we’re careening down new paths in evaluation of knowledge claims, trying to learn to steer in time to teach our students to drive!

Technology just got even more amazing, and our everyday critical thinking just got even more challenging. “Deepfakes” are not merely a mini-advance in digital adjustment of images and videos. Instead, they are developments in machine learning, as artificial intelligence learns and applies the algorithms to enable users to replace elements of a video with other ones not part of the original.  It is now possible for users to swap one person’s face with another’s, such as (in its early applications) replacing a porn performer’s face with a celebrity’s. It is now possible to create convincing videos of world leaders firmly saying things they did not say – in fact. In fact. Continue reading

Stay cool. TOK teachers can handle this. 

180813 horoscope(Eileen Dombrowski from OUP blog) Are we on “the path back into darkness, tribalism, feudalism, superstition, and belief in magic”?  The apparent upsurge of belief in astrology has sent one of my favourite bloggers and podcasters, neurologist and skeptic Steven Novella, into a paroxysm of sheer frustration. How can anything so thoroughly debunked as astrology make inroads back into public belief?  But – stay cool, Steven! This is a job for Theory of Knowledge teachers!  It seems to me we’re in a perfect spot to raise questions about astrology – not with earnest annoyance but with humour and a light heart. Continue reading

Exercise for awareness: facts, feelings, and changing your mind

(by Theo Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Here’s a challenge for your students. Are they open to changing their opinions if faced with contrary facts? Today we offer a class exercise – ready for you to download, to use directly or to customize – whose goal is student self-awareness. It demands reflection, research, and discussion, and should raise discussion on facts, feelings, values, opinions, and confirmation bias in accepting or rejecting knowledge claims. The formatted version is available for download at the end of this post. Continue reading

Biases, fallacies, argument: Would you argue with a T-rex?

(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) If you were the brontosaurus, what would you say back? The following cartoon sequence is designed for TOK to prompt examination of assumptions, emotional appeals, and fallacies of argument. Students will quickly see some real world relevance and echoes of common knowledge claims.

If you would find this activity useful with your own students, please feel free to download a formatted copy here (with permission given to teachers to use it in their own classrooms): Would you argue with a T-rex?  You’ll find commentary on the cartoon frames at the end of this post. Continue reading

(Dis)trusting statistics: a one-page guide

dombrowski dracula 1 300(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) A numbers expert declares he’ll sum up everything he knows about analyzing statistics on the back of a postcard. Could any TOK teacher NOT instantly spring to the alert? He’s inspired me to attempt my own lean summary: a single page mini-guide on (dis)trusting statistics, useful in our own educational context of Theory of Knowledge. Continue reading

“Fake news”: updating TOK critique

news dood clip(by Eileen Dombrowski, OUP blog) “Fake news” is a term that I would happily consign to the annals of 2016 and 2017. Goodbye. But as it lives on, it morphs meaning – and takes on further allure for TOK analysis. It doesn’t just face us, belligerently, with issues of truth and falsehood. It also offers an excellent current example, rooted in real life situations, of another topic central to Theory of Knowledge: the interaction between concepts and language. Further, its shifts in meaning demonstrate the care that we have to take with our tools of analysis – that is, our words and terms. Time for a TOK update! Continue reading

SPOT and the cloak of invisibility: cognitive biases

170925 cloak

For the observer: a cloak of invisibility?

(Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) With a laugh, I pass on to you today a couple more cognitive biases, ones that students are likely to enjoy. We could, of course, despair over how deep our biases seem to go and what a challenge it is to achieve an open mind, but I find it curiously entertaining to learn about the quirky biases of our human minds. Maybe it even creates some patience with other people – those others who are so stubbornly wrong! – if we recognize that we are also naively wrong ourselves.

When considering reason as a way of knowing, we Theory of Knowledge teachers have long treated fallacies that derail clear thinking. When considering intuition as a way of knowing, we have a wealth of material in all the biases that kick in before we’re even consciously thinking. At moments, I’ve idly wondered whether we could teach the entire TOK course centred on confirmation bias, our tendency to notice and accept only information that reinforces what we believe already.   Continue reading

Consuming the news: Is knowing harder than dieting?

170605 chocolate bar(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Oh no! More suggestion, in an article I’m reading, that gaining reliable knowledge from the media might be even harder than sticking to a diet! Just as we’re assaulted with tempting displays of candy and chocolate as we head for the supermarket check-out, we’re faced with screaming headlines, awful photos, and our own fear and excitement as we open the news. Alas! I’ve never been a fan of that smug term “delayed gratification”, and I’ve long felt morose about advice – getting it or giving it – to pause, and think… to counter first intuitions and impulses with the slower responses of reason. Nevertheless, a current analysis of “the terror news cycle” confronts me, yet again, with the importance of not grabbing on impulse but paying attention to what I take in. Resolution for the week: not to go instantly for the tasty or flashy. TOK teachers, beware: this is a spoiler alert! Continue reading

Thinking beyond the knowledge bubbles

soap-bubbles-01(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) I’m taking a little holiday from watching the news. I do this sometimes. I turn off the volume to watch all those mouths move, then let all of the frustrated and angry people float away, sealed in their lovely bubbles. Escapism? Yes – and no. Sometimes it’s the only way to imagine myself outside my own bubble of news and views, to try to see how people get sealed off from each other in their internally coherent mini-worlds. If I quiet my own rage at the world and stop myself from yelling about “truth”, I think I can see that the people inside all the bubbles are a lot alike, and are using similar ways to create their different versions of the world. It’s those ways that grab my attention for Theory of Knowledge. The following story is likely to grab your attention as well. Continue reading