MySide bias in scientific debates (Louise Dupuis and Matteo Michelini)

The Logic and Metaphysics Workshop will meet on September 26th from 4:15-6:15 (NY time) via Zoom for a talk by Louise Dupuis (Paris Dauphine) and Matteo Michelini (Eindhoven).

Title: MySide bias in scientific debates

Abstract: Recent research in cognitive science supports the idea that scientific reasoning is influenced by myside resp. confirmation bias — a tendency to prioritize the search and generation of arguments that support one’s views, rather than arguments that would undermine it and, consequently, to apply more critical scrutiny to opposing than to one’s own stances (Mercier, 2017, Mercier, 2014). Even though myside bias may pull scientists away from the truth, its effects could be mitigated by certain socio-epistemic mechanisms. Moreover, if kept under control — so the argument goes — myside bias may have a positive impact on inquiry by generating an efficient division of cognitive labour. While this view stands in sharp contrast to the common take on confirmation bias as epistemically pernicious, it coheres with recent arguments from the philosophy of science that confirmation bias can be beneficial for group inquiry (Smart, 2018, Peters, 2020). This raises the question under which conditions (if any) myside bias plays such a positive role. In this paper we investigate this question by means of an argumentative agent-based model. Our results suggest that the myside bias may have an ambivalent effect on scientific debates. On the one hand, biased scientists tend to explore the given topic to a greater extent, which may facilitate a more thorough inquiry. On the other hand, they are also less likely to change their mind, which can be especially damaging in case they have reached a consensus on a wrong point of view.

Note: This is joint work with Dunja Šešelja, Juliette Rouchier, Gabriella Pigozzi, Annemarie Borg, and Christian Straßer.

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