Antagonising the echo chamber: Can a social network counteract cognitive bias with Bayesian rationality?

Bayes on the Beach 13-15 Nov 2017

TitleAntagonising the echo chamber: Can a social network counteract cognitive bias with Bayesian rationality? [Accepted for Poster presentation]

AuthorsKate Devitt1, Tamara Pearce2, Alok Chowdhury3, Kerrie Mengersen4

1-4 Queensland University of Technology


Abstract content: Discussion forums (e.g. Reddit) and social media (e.g. Facebook) allow fast dissemination and analysis of ideas. However, because individuals curate content aligned to values and beliefs, such forums can become echo chambers–existing beliefs are confirmed and disconfirming evidence ignored. Research in cognitive biases has shown that increasing the number and diversity of hypotheses considered by individuals can improve decision making.

This presentation presents collaborative research between QUT and a global online travel agency (OTA) to generate, present and evaluate hypotheses in a social platform to counteract cognitive bias and improve scientific organisational culture. The platform explicitly links hypotheses ‘posts’ (pertinent to strategic business goals) to evidence ‘comments’ (e.g. news articles or technical updates).

Each piece of evidence is weighted objectively and subjectively by users and outside experts to produce a hybrid weighting fed into an algorithm to output a likelihood that a hypothesis is true.  The algorithm takes both the quantity and quality of user interactions on the system into consideration. Incorporating Bayesian rationality, the algorithm weights evidence differently depending on context and purpose to reduce biases amplified within existing social media ‘echo-chambers’.

This research initially investigates whether using the platform will increase number of relevant hypotheses generated and whether using the platform increases the amount and quality of evidence used to justify hypotheses. We will then evaluate impacts on strategic decision making such as whether using the platform improves closed innovation within the OTA, facilitate increased scientific behaviours and/or intellectual humility amongst employees.


Cognitive Decision Scientist

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S. Kate Devitt

Research Associate, Institute for Future Environments and the Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology