Author Topic: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?  (Read 3631 times)

tyrannosaurus vex

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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #75 on: February 07, 2017, 07:32:26 pm »
Yes. Targeted results stop you from acting freely. But that knowledge doesn't matter. They don't care. We can expound on the virtues of a clean, objective, well-rounded view of history and our place in it all we want, and we might even get some people to agree how important it is, but if they don't care, they won't change their behavior.

It's widely common to dismiss rightwing extremists as uneducated and unaware, and for good reason. They do tend to be those things. But they are still, technically, human beings, and as such I think they possess a degree of insight that is somewhat (maybe not much) higher than they are often given credit for. That isn't to say people locked into these ideological bubbles are "right" about anything, but it wouldn't be news to them that they are, in fact, locked inside an ideological bubble. They already know their information is biased. They will, often, openly admit that they seek "conservative" information. Sure, they will call it "correct" and "true", and they will accuse everyone else of lying, but to them, what is true is inconsequential anyway. They feel safe where they are, where they are validated, where their feelings are coddled and their beliefs are reinforced. They are already aware of this situation, whatever the words are they use to describe it. This is what they choose.

So just bringing it to their attention that "hey buddy, all your information is fake" or even just "you're missing half the story" won't go anywhere, because information quality or completeness isn't their motivation anyway. They are not rational actors.
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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #76 on: February 07, 2017, 07:39:05 pm »
Yes. Targeted results stop you from acting freely. But that knowledge doesn't matter. They don't care. We can expound on the virtues of a clean, objective, well-rounded view of history and our place in it all we want, and we might even get some people to agree how important it is, but if they don't care, they won't change their behavior.

It's widely common to dismiss rightwing extremists as uneducated and unaware, and for good reason. They do tend to be those things. But they are still, technically, human beings, and as such I think they possess a degree of insight that is somewhat (maybe not much) higher than they are often given credit for. That isn't to say people locked into these ideological bubbles are "right" about anything, but it wouldn't be news to them that they are, in fact, locked inside an ideological bubble. They already know their information is biased. They will, often, openly admit that they seek "conservative" information. Sure, they will call it "correct" and "true", and they will accuse everyone else of lying, but to them, what is true is inconsequential anyway. They feel safe where they are, where they are validated, where their feelings are coddled and their beliefs are reinforced. They are already aware of this situation, whatever the words are they use to describe it. This is what they choose.

So just bringing it to their attention that "hey buddy, all your information is fake" or even just "you're missing half the story" won't go anywhere, because information quality or completeness isn't their motivation anyway. They are not rational actors.

This is not really about political affiliation; the same problem applies to liberals, across all educational backgrounds.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #77 on: February 07, 2017, 11:34:19 pm »

And yes, his results reinforced his pre-existing biases. Congratulations, you got the main point of the article.

Those results were the only results he would have accepted. Congratulations, main point of the article missed your scalp by a good couple of feet.
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tyrannosaurus vex

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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #78 on: February 08, 2017, 02:13:41 am »
...

This is not really about political affiliation; the same problem applies to liberals, across all educational backgrounds.

I was at work, distracted, and so a little clumsy with my example. My point was that biased people tend to already know, on some level, that they are biased. They just don't care. To them, the quality of the information is secondary to whatever belief they're trying to reinforce. People are more than just a product of information they are exposed to, so exposing them to or getting them to consume higher quality information, or more well-rounded information, is only going to affect their bias if they are already placing a higher value on information than on their beliefs. Otherwise, they'll do all the work of filtering out information themselves, often subconsciously, even without Google's (or whoever's) help. At best, they'll be more acquainted with arguments they reject. At worst, they'll view the conflicting information as a threat and actively seek to suppress it by retreating from the source and burying themselves on Stormfront, or wherever.

So yes, the customized/personalized search results definitely have the effect of magnifying bias, but the information itself isn't the underlying problem so it can't be the solution (on its own) either.
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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #79 on: February 08, 2017, 03:58:18 am »
...

This is not really about political affiliation; the same problem applies to liberals, across all educational backgrounds.

I was at work, distracted, and so a little clumsy with my example. My point was that biased people tend to already know, on some level, that they are biased. They just don't care. To them, the quality of the information is secondary to whatever belief they're trying to reinforce. People are more than just a product of information they are exposed to, so exposing them to or getting them to consume higher quality information, or more well-rounded information, is only going to affect their bias if they are already placing a higher value on information than on their beliefs. Otherwise, they'll do all the work of filtering out information themselves, often subconsciously, even without Google's (or whoever's) help. At best, they'll be more acquainted with arguments they reject. At worst, they'll view the conflicting information as a threat and actively seek to suppress it by retreating from the source and burying themselves on Stormfront, or wherever.

So yes, the customized/personalized search results definitely have the effect of magnifying bias, but the information itself isn't the underlying problem so it can't be the solution (on its own) either.

I think you are making the mistake of thinking of the people affected by this issue as "them" rather than "us".
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


tyrannosaurus vex

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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #80 on: February 08, 2017, 04:28:28 am »
...

This is not really about political affiliation; the same problem applies to liberals, across all educational backgrounds.

I was at work, distracted, and so a little clumsy with my example. My point was that biased people tend to already know, on some level, that they are biased. They just don't care. To them, the quality of the information is secondary to whatever belief they're trying to reinforce. People are more than just a product of information they are exposed to, so exposing them to or getting them to consume higher quality information, or more well-rounded information, is only going to affect their bias if they are already placing a higher value on information than on their beliefs. Otherwise, they'll do all the work of filtering out information themselves, often subconsciously, even without Google's (or whoever's) help. At best, they'll be more acquainted with arguments they reject. At worst, they'll view the conflicting information as a threat and actively seek to suppress it by retreating from the source and burying themselves on Stormfront, or wherever.

So yes, the customized/personalized search results definitely have the effect of magnifying bias, but the information itself isn't the underlying problem so it can't be the solution (on its own) either.

I think you are making the mistake of thinking of the people affected by this issue as "them" rather than "us".

No, I know very well this affects me too. It's just the way the grammar works out when you try to describe a problem from the outside. I know there's no such thing as "outside" this particular problem, even if it exists on a spectrum. Just pretend I said "we" instead of "they", it doesn't change the statement.
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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #81 on: February 08, 2017, 03:21:48 pm »
...

This is not really about political affiliation; the same problem applies to liberals, across all educational backgrounds.

I was at work, distracted, and so a little clumsy with my example. My point was that biased people tend to already know, on some level, that they are biased. They just don't care. To them, the quality of the information is secondary to whatever belief they're trying to reinforce. People are more than just a product of information they are exposed to, so exposing them to or getting them to consume higher quality information, or more well-rounded information, is only going to affect their bias if they are already placing a higher value on information than on their beliefs. Otherwise, they'll do all the work of filtering out information themselves, often subconsciously, even without Google's (or whoever's) help. At best, they'll be more acquainted with arguments they reject. At worst, they'll view the conflicting information as a threat and actively seek to suppress it by retreating from the source and burying themselves on Stormfront, or wherever.

So yes, the customized/personalized search results definitely have the effect of magnifying bias, but the information itself isn't the underlying problem so it can't be the solution (on its own) either.

I think you are making the mistake of thinking of the people affected by this issue as "them" rather than "us".

No, I know very well this affects me too. It's just the way the grammar works out when you try to describe a problem from the outside. I know there's no such thing as "outside" this particular problem, even if it exists on a spectrum. Just pretend I said "we" instead of "they", it doesn't change the statement.

So... basically you're saying is that people already have biases and that they don't care. That is a true and established fundamental principle of psychology.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #82 on: February 08, 2017, 03:22:35 pm »

And yes, his results reinforced his pre-existing biases. Congratulations, you got the main point of the article.

Those results were the only results he would have accepted. Congratulations, main point of the article missed your scalp by a good couple of feet.

Sure, totally.  :roll:
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #83 on: February 08, 2017, 04:02:10 pm »
...

This is not really about political affiliation; the same problem applies to liberals, across all educational backgrounds.

I was at work, distracted, and so a little clumsy with my example. My point was that biased people tend to already know, on some level, that they are biased. They just don't care. To them, the quality of the information is secondary to whatever belief they're trying to reinforce. People are more than just a product of information they are exposed to, so exposing them to or getting them to consume higher quality information, or more well-rounded information, is only going to affect their bias if they are already placing a higher value on information than on their beliefs. Otherwise, they'll do all the work of filtering out information themselves, often subconsciously, even without Google's (or whoever's) help. At best, they'll be more acquainted with arguments they reject. At worst, they'll view the conflicting information as a threat and actively seek to suppress it by retreating from the source and burying themselves on Stormfront, or wherever.

So yes, the customized/personalized search results definitely have the effect of magnifying bias, but the information itself isn't the underlying problem so it can't be the solution (on its own) either.

I think you are making the mistake of thinking of the people affected by this issue as "them" rather than "us".

No, I know very well this affects me too. It's just the way the grammar works out when you try to describe a problem from the outside. I know there's no such thing as "outside" this particular problem, even if it exists on a spectrum. Just pretend I said "we" instead of "they", it doesn't change the statement.

So... basically you're saying is that people already have biases and that they don't care. That is a true and established fundamental principle of psychology.

I guess I'll have to ask you to excuse me for not having completed a Psych 101 course, but arriving at an accepted fundamental principle all the same. In the context of this discussion, which is about the impact of personalized search results on those biases, it's useful to point out lest someone think that simply reversing these algorithms, or somehow intentionally seeding results with nonconforming information, would be sufficient to overcome this effect. My own admittedly not traditionally educated opinion is that with or without such algorithms, the wealth of information available online itself will have the effect of magnifying bias because people are going to seek the information they want and ignore the information that conflicts with our beliefs anyway. So righting the unethical practice of effectively obscuring true information from people just because we don't necessarily prefer it is an admirable goal morally speaking, as long as we don't expect it to change anything.
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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #84 on: February 08, 2017, 04:15:46 pm »
I guess I'll have to ask you to excuse me for not having completed a Psych 101 course, but arriving at an accepted fundamental principle all the same. In the context of this discussion, which is about the impact of personalized search results on those biases, it's useful to point out lest someone think that simply reversing these algorithms, or somehow intentionally seeding results with nonconforming information, would be sufficient to overcome this effect. My own admittedly not traditionally educated opinion is that with or without such algorithms, the wealth of information available online itself will have the effect of magnifying bias because people are going to seek the information they want and ignore the information that conflicts with our beliefs anyway. So righting the unethical practice of effectively obscuring true information from people just because we don't necessarily prefer it is an admirable goal morally speaking, as long as we don't expect it to change anything.

As a person with extensive formal human behavior education under my belt, I wholeheartedly disagree with you, hence this thread.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #85 on: February 08, 2017, 04:31:02 pm »
I guess I'll have to ask you to excuse me for not having completed a Psych 101 course, but arriving at an accepted fundamental principle all the same. In the context of this discussion, which is about the impact of personalized search results on those biases, it's useful to point out lest someone think that simply reversing these algorithms, or somehow intentionally seeding results with nonconforming information, would be sufficient to overcome this effect. My own admittedly not traditionally educated opinion is that with or without such algorithms, the wealth of information available online itself will have the effect of magnifying bias because people are going to seek the information they want and ignore the information that conflicts with our beliefs anyway. So righting the unethical practice of effectively obscuring true information from people just because we don't necessarily prefer it is an admirable goal morally speaking, as long as we don't expect it to change anything.

As a person with extensive formal human behavior education under my belt, I wholeheartedly disagree with you, hence this thread.

That's fine. You're probably right, I don't know as much as you do, so I won't belabor it. Plus I'm interested in finding out either way. So what's your idea about how to change it, in broad strokes? Do you prefer a campaign to pressure information providers to alter their algorithms in some way (either to relax the information bubbles or inject higher quality information into results despite conflicts with user preferences), try to spark a "viral" movement to bring attention to low information quality, or some combination? I guess what I'm asking is that PD is... least dysfunctional... when there's a project of some kind, and we have a ton of creative power, so where do you think we should put our effort?
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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #86 on: February 08, 2017, 04:33:24 pm »
I guess I'll have to ask you to excuse me for not having completed a Psych 101 course, but arriving at an accepted fundamental principle all the same. In the context of this discussion, which is about the impact of personalized search results on those biases, it's useful to point out lest someone think that simply reversing these algorithms, or somehow intentionally seeding results with nonconforming information, would be sufficient to overcome this effect. My own admittedly not traditionally educated opinion is that with or without such algorithms, the wealth of information available online itself will have the effect of magnifying bias because people are going to seek the information they want and ignore the information that conflicts with our beliefs anyway. So righting the unethical practice of effectively obscuring true information from people just because we don't necessarily prefer it is an admirable goal morally speaking, as long as we don't expect it to change anything.

As a person with extensive formal human behavior education under my belt, I wholeheartedly disagree with you, hence this thread.

That's fine. You're probably right, I don't know as much as you do, so I won't belabor it. Plus I'm interested in finding out either way. So what's your idea about how to change it, in broad strokes? Do you prefer a campaign to pressure information providers to alter their algorithms in some way (either to relax the information bubbles or inject higher quality information into results despite conflicts with user preferences), try to spark a "viral" movement to bring attention to low information quality, or some combination? I guess what I'm asking is that PD is... least dysfunctional... when there's a project of some kind, and we have a ton of creative power, so where do you think we should put our effort?

I'm pretty sure I expressed my thoughts on that in previous posts in this thread.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #87 on: February 08, 2017, 04:45:55 pm »
Basically, at this stage, the only viable angle of approach is simply talking about it. Spreading the idea that targeted results is targeted censorship. IF this idea takes hold, even if only among writers and intellectual types, THEN we will have the social pressure necessary to move on to step 2, which is proposing legislation. Social pressure alone, however, might be enough to spur Google to either modify its targeting, or to make an easy and obvious way to turn off targeting.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #88 on: February 08, 2017, 05:23:47 pm »
Social pressure alone, however, might be enough to spur Google to either modify its targeting, or to make an easy and obvious way to turn off targeting.

The bolded strikes me as insufficient.

Arguably we don't get the societal benefits of removing targeted search results if it's an opt-out system unless you can "opt out" on a per-search basis. Something like Google having a button at the top of search pages, "Show untargeted results". People will play with it just to play with it, and that helps, a /little/ bit. Unfortunately, it still reinforces a sense of "Here's the real world, and here's the world THEY want you to see" -- with the two being swapped from their real order. After all, why would Google by default feed them biased information? Especially if it happens to perfectly fit their contrived worldview! Bias is something that happens to The Other Guy -- you might be aware of bias on your end but the average person convinces themselves that awareness of bias is enough to counteract it, according to my research and experience.

Another issue is: if it's opt-out, most people won't bother -- it's extra work, even if it's minimal extra work. Witness how few people (outside the scientific community, of course) will bother using something like libgen if they want an article that's paywall locked. Slight inconveniences are sufficient deterrents for the average individual, there's a lot of evidence of this.

(I think there's something to be said for the other side too, though -- people who are used to digging for information feel like information they get "easily" is somehow worth less. I know I've noticed this tendency in me, and I think it's something that could backfire in a world where this sort of thing manages to get pushed through.)

I've thought about this, and I think I'd prefer default untargeted search results with opt-in targeting on a per-search basis. That's the best of all possible worlds, I think -- it gives P3nt what he wants with a single extra click per search (reducing the work of hunting through untargeted results despite the minor increase of work to bring up targeted results), forces no extra education, and says "This is the real world. Here is the fantasy world we have prepared specifically for you" -- which raises awareness of how prevalent the echo chambers we live in really are.

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Re: Are customized search results polarizing opinions?
« Reply #89 on: February 08, 2017, 06:29:30 pm »
Opt-in is certainly preferable to opt-out, but consider what is most likely to be a voluntary action taken by Google and other search engines. They will take the avenue that is most likely to forestall legislation banning targeted search results, and that avenue is more likely to be a radio button next to the search box that defaults to targeted.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”