Cognitive Dissonance & Confirmation Bias - Techlore Talks #3

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

There are many book on these subjects. I can recommend Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman) - quite long, but thoroughly explained.

Also reminds me another interesting book about our mind I read recently -
Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
(Dan Ariely).

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I agree that these are relevant topics in the privacy community and it’s intensified by the fact that so many of us feel a sense of urgency about the problem. Some can take the ‘threat’ in threat model more seriously than others, and when your mind is operating at that level you think that others are foolish for not viewing things in the same way that you do. That’s not to devalue the opinion of folks who have advanced threat models, but it’s important to realize where you are in comparison to the rest of the community and the average person who hasn’t seriously considered privacy at all.

When you’re dealing with a community, it’s valuable to be explicit about the biases and topics that edge us toward being disrespectful of each other. I understand that we may have big disagreements on certain things, but we want to be able to catch ourselves so that we don’t cross the line into being mean to each other in the name of our preference or view. Being aware of our own ability to have cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias helps to catch ourselves or see our mistakes when we don’t.

Besides the toll we take on each other when we don’t mitigate friction, we also have the reputation of the privacy community to consider. The Linux community deals with the same thing, though it seems like it’s gotten better from the stories I’ve heard. If a community has a reputation for being toxic, not only are people less likely to engage with the community - they are also less likely to engage with the topic. Mean Linux people scare noobs away from Linux. Mean privacy people likewise scare the average person away from trying to be more privacy conscious.

This is a good conversation to have, but it also requires a lot of nuance itself! Even within this idea people may draw the lines in the sand in different places and thus argue about how to be chill. However, I think the more we have these meta conversations in the community at large, the better we’ll be at respecting each other and contribute to a more welcoming space.

Spicy topic, though, lol. :grimacing:

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