Lisa April-Naidoo
Beware of These 5 Behavioural Biases When Reading Articles Online

Discover how biases influence our online reading and ways to read more critically.

In our ever-connected digital age, the endless scroll of articles from a myriad of sources can be both enlightening and overwhelming. While we might be tempted to accept everything at face value, especially when it aligns with our worldviews, it's essential to recognize that our interpretation of these articles is often influenced by cognitive biases.

This article seeks to illuminate some of these biases and provide guidance on how to navigate the digital information maze more judiciously.
Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias describes our tendency to seek, interpret, and remember information that are aligned to our established beliefs. For example, if you're convinced of the merits of organic food, you might avidly read articles highlighting its benefits while glossing over studies that question its superiority.

When you find yourself solely in the company of affirming articles, it's a hint to diversify your readings and engage with contrarian perspectives.
Questions to Ask Yourself:

- Am I actively seeking diverse sources, or only those that affirm my beliefs?
- Would I have the same reaction to this information if it were contrary to my views?
Availability Heuristic

The availability heuristic refers to our propensity to assign importance to information based on its immediacy or recent exposure. Picture this: a sudden surge of articles on a new health scare might lead you to believe it's a universal issue, even when it's not.

When you encounter such scenarios, where a topic seems omnipresent and begins to unduly sway your opinions, take a step back. Engage in deeper research to discern whether the topic's coverage is proportional to the actual significance of the issue.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- Am I overestimating the significance of this event because it's freshly imprinted in my memory?
- Have I consulted broader statistical data to get a comprehensive perspective?
Echo Chamber Effect

In today's segmented digital world, it's easy to fall into the trap of the echo chamber effect. This phenomenon amplifies our beliefs because we surround ourselves with information sources that mirror our perspectives, resulting in a constrained and narrow viewpoint.

For instance, if your news feed is dominated by a single political or ideological slant, you might think that's the prevailing or only valid perspective. Recognising the sameness in your sources is an invitation to broaden your horizons and include diverse voices.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- Are all my sources singing the same tune?
- When was the last time I intentionally read an article from a differing viewpoint?
Post-purchase Rationalisation

Human nature tends to defend and rationalize our decisions, especially after we've committed to them. Known as post-purchase rationalisation, this bias is not limited to shopping decisions. For instance, after subscribing to a premium news website, you might find yourself defending its content and deeming it more credible than other sources, just because you've invested in it.

It's essential to be conscious of this bias and ensure you're not giving undue weight to content simply because of a financial or emotional investment. Always cross-reference information.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- Am I valuing this content more because of my personal or financial investment?
- Would I still defend this viewpoint if I hadn't made this purchase or commitment?
Framing Effect

Lastly, the framing effect is a subtle yet influential bias where our interpretations differ based on the presentation of information. An article might frame data as "9 out of 10 people approve of X," whereas another might say "1 out of 10 people disapprove of X." Both statements are technically accurate, but they suggest vastly different sentiments.

To guard against the framing effect, always aim to understand the complete context, and ponder how the information might be perceived if presented differently.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- How would my perspective change if the information were presented differently?
- Am I reacting to the substance of the information or its framing?
In conclusion, the vast digital content landscape offers immense opportunities for knowledge and insight. However, with this abundance comes the responsibility of discerning truth from noise.

Being aware of these behavioural biases and actively working to counteract them will ensure a more informed, balanced, and comprehensive worldview.


·Nickerson, R. S. (1998). Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises. Review of General Psychology, 2(2), 175.

·Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1973). Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability. Cognitive psychology, 5(2), 207-232.

·Sunstein, C. R. (2017). # Republic: Divided democracy in the age of social media. Princeton University Press.

·Soman, D. (2001). The mental accounting of sunk time costs: Why time is not like money. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 14(3), 169-185.

·Druckman, J. N. (2001). The implications of framing effects for citizen competence. Political Behavior, 23(3), 225-256.

Lisa-April is an experienced behavioral economics consultant with a demonstrated history of working in the management consulting industry.

Skilled in assisting clients identify key behavioral biases that affect decision-making.
Lisa-April is an experienced behavioral economics consultant with a demonstrated history of working in the management consulting industry.

Skilled in assisting clients identify key behavioral biases that affect decision-making.

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