Tag Archives: confirmation bias

The Amazing Ghost-Hunting Dog

20 Feb

That’s right! Pixie, an adorable Jack Russell Terrier, is part of the “Ghost Tours of America Research Team”. Her owner claims she has the extraordinary ability to sense ghosts…

This is where the damn video *would* be embedded if WP wasn't being such a pain in the ass. So click it for the link.

…because, as we all know, “dogs can sense paranormal activity”.  How does Pixie pick up on paranormal… perterbances? (Ok I just made that word up for the sake of alliteration) Well, according to her owner, when Pixie senses a ghost she will demonstrate unusual body language or behavior such as:

  • Stopping unexpectedly
  • Sniffing the air
  • Barking
  • Agitation

Hmmm…wow…that’s iron clad. I mean what Jack Russell Terrier would ever possibly display those unusual signs unless paranormal activity was involved?? Come to think of it, my cat senses ghosts, too! Only she does it by running across the floor for no reason and random crotch-grooming.

Watch the whole video for some great examples of confirmation bias. The only thing I was amazed at was how these people are able to convince themselves that this dog’s TOTALLY NORMAL BEHAVIOR is actually some sign of supernatural ability. Wowzers.

Does Google’s Filter Bubble Bias Your Information

24 Jun

by Benjamen Johnson

As of May 2011, Google held %65 percent of the search market[1]. Chances are you use it to search for news on the web, but are those searches a reflection of reality or are they filtered to fit into your own unique information or “filter” bubble[2]. The problem isn’t just limited to Google, but most search engines and many other news portals customize your search results based on who you are, your previous searches, what you’ve previously clicked on, and your location.

Sure search result customization could be a good thing, but it can have the unintentional effect of moving up information that you tend to agree with and burying information that you don’t — like building confirmation bias right into your search results. An example would be somebody who prefers clicking on Fox News or Huffington post links might find more stories from these sites at the top of his news searches rather than other sources.

So what can you do to make sure you get unbiased results? According to Google’s Matt Cutts, if you are using Google you can add the string add “&pws=0” to the end of your search results or use the Google Chrome browser’s incognito mode[3], but how many people are going remember this next time they are looking for information?

Another solution would be to use a search engine that doesn’t change the results based on personal information, one like DuckDuckGo. To see just how much your search results are personalized, do a vanity search on Google and then try one on DuckDuckGo. (Google makes me think I am much more popular than I actually am.)

This is just one more area where, as a skeptic, that you have to be careful about choosing your sources of information. I imagine most of the populace will probably just continue use Google to search the web and not realize they are living in a filter bubble.


1.) comScore, Inc. June 10th, 2011. comScore Releases May 2011 U.S. Search Engine Rankings. In comScore website. Retrieved June 24th 2011, from http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2011/6/comScore_Releases_May_2011_U.S._Search_Engine_Rankings

2.) Young, Rob D. May 15th The Google “Filter Bubble” and Its Problems. In Search Engine Journal. Retrieved June 24th, 2011, from http://www.searchenginejournal.com/the-google-filter-bubble-and-its-problems/29879/

3.) Schwatz, Barry. June 21st, 2011. Duck! Google’s Cutts Responds To Search Filter Bubbles. In Search Engine Round Table. Retrieved June 24th, 2011, from http://www.seroundtable.com/google-search-bubble-response-13591.html