Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs.
Because I believe that Carlos Coy is innocent, ignoring information that disagrees with my opinion is not really an option; people have been trying to shove it down my throat since the first time I ever let my socially-unacceptable opinion slip out. The only way I’ve found to deal with it is to try to know more about their arguments than they do, and meet them head-on with that knowledge. This involves spending hours reading opinions and arguments that differ from mine, and trying to consider each on their own merits. Obviously there’s going to be a limit to how much I can learn from what’s available from the press and the public documents, but I feel pretty good about how I’ve dealt with my own confirmation bias so far.
Those who believe he’s guilty are rarely confronted with anyone who disagrees with them; those that do argue his innocence certainly can’t prove it, and that makes them easy to dismiss. By taking a different tack and focusing on what I see as an unjust criminal trial, and backing up my beliefs with what I hope is sourced and credible information, I’ve come damn near to making a few die-hard anti-fan’s heads explode.
This is extremely apparent in my last exchange with Eric; he is flabbergasted, utterly perplexed that I do not share his interest in Coy’s civil trial. He just can’t understand why something that seems so relevant to him is unimportant to me; he cannot grasp why I don’t take up the battle on his front, and argue about things that he thinks will prove him right.
In the same way that Coy’s criminal trial was tainted by what I believe was the presumption of guilt, (remember, the complainant was called ‘the victim’ from the very beginning of the trial, before any evidence had been offered that a crime had even occurred), every action in his civil trial was carried out under the enforced assumption that his conviction was correct.
Eric, blinded by his socially-approved confirmation bias, does not seem to be able to see how this forced perspective affected the civil trial. He sees what he wants to see, which is a second jury with all the facts handing down a blistering indictment of a man whom, he believes, is guilty. Without researching it further, all I see is a case hinging on what may be a wrongful conviction, of no more use in determining Coy's guilt or innocence than anonymous internet rumors.
Eric claims that the moderate award for actual damages proves that the jury believed Coy was guilty, that the finding of malice proves the same, and that the lack of exemplary damages proves nothing, but that’s not a consistent argument. If he can draw inferences from the award of cash, he has to accept that someone else can do the same for the award of nothing.
Unless, of course, his confirmation bias is so deeply rooted that he can’t even comprehend the problems with his own argument. I pointed Eric towards the Harris County District Clerk’s website, where at least he can read through the actual court documents instead of drawing support from random internet accusations. Initially it’ s likely that everything he reads will seem to support his opinion that Coy is guilty because of his inherent bias; that’s fine. Eventually, if he’s capable of understanding what he reads, he’s going to find out that his assumptions about the opinions of people he’s never met, drawn from actions guided by rules that he doesn’t yet understand, are much less concrete than he believes. Whether or not he will be able to admit that is going to be a true test of his character.