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Digital Survival Skills Module 1: My Media Environment

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Task 4: Filter Bubbles & Confirmation Bias

Students learn about confirmation bias and filter bubbles through videos and an activity that aims to activate their confirmation bias and allow them to reflect on it.

Materials: Student Handout | Headlines: Which would you like or share?

1. Students write on the Student Handout or turn and talk about this question: Have you heard of filter bubbles or confirmation bias before? If so, what do you know about them?

2. Students watch the next part of Social Media from the Crash Course “Navigating Digital Information” (watch 8:27–10:06)

  • In the video, John Green says that because social media “algorithms mostly show us things we are likely to like and agree with, we often find ourselves in so-called filter bubbles, surrounded by voices we already know we agree with, and often unable to hear from those we don’t.” In the activity for this lesson, students engage in a scenario that shows how our confirmation bias works in conjunction with the algorithms to create these filter bubbles.

3. Students answer questions on the Student Handout to determine which issues they feel strongly about. This information is important for the next part of the activity. A few questions are listed below:

Pre-Activity: What issues do you feel strongly about?

Music & Learning: Does listening to music while studying help people learn?
Yes                Probably                I don’t know                Probably not                No

Phones in Classrooms: Would banning phones in classrooms help education?
Yes                Probably                I don’t know                Probably not                No

Immigration in the U.S.: Do you think immigration is a benefit to the USA?
Yes                Probably                I don’t know                Probably not                No

4. Students circle the topics they had the strongest opinions about.

5. Students look at Headlines: Which would you like or share?, focusing on the articles that match the topics they had the strongest opinions about. They reflect on their thoughts and feelings about the information presented by completing the chart on page 2 of the Student Handout, again focusing on the topics they have strong opinions about. Chart excerpt below. Note to students that all of these headlines are from credible sources.

TopicPost HeadlineHow does this information make you feel? Do you want it to be true or false?Would you share or like this post? Why or why not?
Music & LearningDrowned in Sound: how listening to music hinders learning (The Guardian)  
3 Reasons You Should Try Studying While Listening to Music (Colorado State University Online)  

6. To understand the cognitive bias at work when they engage with these articles, students watch Confirmation Bias: Why do our brains love fake news? (5:20) from KQED’s Above the Noise and respond to the following prompts on the Student Handout:

  • The part of this video that most surprised me was...
  • Confirmation bias causes us to…
  • This matters because…
  • During the article activity, I feel I did / did not [circle one] experience confirmation bias because…

7. Students watch Soldier v. Scout Mentality (11:45), a TEDx talk by Julia Galef, co-founder of the Center for Applied Rationality, and respond to the following prompts on the Student Handout:

  • The part of this video that most interested me was…
  • If you have a soldier mindset, you care more about the ideas you agree with winning. If you encounter facts that suggest you’re wrong, you attack or ignore them – and can end up believing and spreading misinformation. If you have a scout mindset, you care more about finding out the truth, whether it matches what you think or not. If you encounter facts that suggest you’re wrong, you get curious and open your mind to the possibility that your ideas need to change. Because of confirmation bias, your brain usually wants to be in the soldier mindset. It doesn’t like new ideas contradicting what it already believes. What are some things you can do to practice a scout mindset?