Mass information is the source of collective credulity
It can be said that the information market in contemporary Western societies has been massively deregulated, particularly since the emergence of the Internet. (…)
more and more information is being disseminated, and in such proportions that it is already a major historical fact in the history of mankind. But one might think: there is more and more information available, so much the better for democracy and so much the better for knowledge, which will eventually impose itself on the minds of all! This point of view seems too optimistic. It assumes that, in this open competition between beliefs and methodical knowledge, the latter will necessarily prevail. However, faced with this plethoric market offer, the individual can easily be tempted to compose a mentally convenient rather than true representation of the world.
In other words, the plurality of the proposals made to him or her enables him or her to avoid, at a lower cost, the mental discomfort that the products of knowledge often constitute. The explosion of supply facilitates the plural presence of cognitive proposals on the market and their greater accessibility. The least visible and yet most decisive consequence of this state of affairs is that all the conditions are then met for the confirmation bias to give the full measure of its capacity to divert us from the truth. Of all the cognitive temptations influencing ordinary logic, the confirmation bias is undoubtedly the most decisive in the processes which perpetuate beliefs. Confirmation bias allows us to strengthen all kinds of beliefs, from the most insignificant ones - such as our superstitious manias which only manage to take root in us because we make efforts to retain only the happy facts that this or that ritual would have favoured - to the most spectacular ones. Indeed, we often find a way of observing facts that are not incompatible with a dubious statement, but this demonstration has no value if we do not take into account the proportion, or even the existence, of those who contradict it.
If this appetence for confirmation is not the expression of objective rationality, it makes our existence easier, in a way. Thus the process of denial is probably more effective if our aim is to seek the truth, because it reduces the probability of considering something false as true.
In a competitive situation, we will opt for the proposition that produces the most cognitive effect for the least mental effort. Because beliefs often propose solutions that follow the natural slopes of the mind, and because they are based on confirmation bias, they produce a very advantageous cognitive effect with regard to the mental effort involved. Once an idea has been accepted, individuals, (...), will persevere in their belief. They will do so all the more easily as the increased and non-selective dissemination of information makes it more likely that they will encounter "data" confirming their belief.
The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another. Avarice over-rates the difference between poverty and riches: ambition, that between a private and a public station: vain-glory, that between obscurity and extensive reputation. The person under the influence of any of those extravagant passions, is not only miserable in his actual situation, but is often disposed to disturb the peace of society, in order to arrive at that which he so foolishly admires. The slightest observation, however, might satisfy him, that, in all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented. Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice.
Yet, certainly, the wise learn many things from their enemies; for caution preserves all things. From a friend you could not learn this, but your foe immediately obliges you to learn it. For example, the states have learned from enemies, and not from friends, to build lofty walls, and to possess ships of war. And this lesson preserves children, house, and possessions.
The present theory then must be considered to be a suggested program or framework for future research and must stand ...