'Balancer' Browser Tool Reveals Your Political Bias | www.infopackets.com

'Balancer' Browser Tool Reveals Your Political Bias

Dennis Faas's picture

Researchers in the United States have developed a tool that can help you get more balanced political information on the Internet. But it's not yet proven that it can change your mind.

The idea is to counter the "echo chamber" effect. The theory is that people tend to look at online news sources and follow social media users who share their own views and attitudes.

As a result, people tend to see a similar viewpoint all of the time, in turn reinforcing their prejudices and meaning they never have to see material that might challenge their stance.

Over the long term, they get the false impression that everyone shares their beliefs.

Sean Munson and Stephanie Lee of the University of Washington worked with Paul Resnick of the University of Michigan on a project to tackle this problem (which is also known as "selective exposure theory"). (Source: smunson.com)

'Balancer' Browser Tool Measures Bias

The researchers came up with a tool for Google's Chrome browser that takes advantage of several studies investigating political bias in news sites. They used this tool, which is called 'Balancer', to assign each site a score based on its liberal or conservative bias.

This special tool was then used to keep track of the sites visited by study participants over a one-month period. During this time the tool showed the user their overall balance of liberal and conservative viewpoints and suggested alternative sites to redress the balance.

Munson told New Scientist that the tool did make a difference to users, but only on a small scale. On average, users with the tool made twenty additional visits to sites rated 'neutral' and four more visits to sites which had an opposing political stance to their own. (Source: newscientist.com)

More Diverse Reading May Not Change Views

Although some test subjects were more likely to follow the tool's suggestions, the researchers weren't able to find a clear pattern as to why people reacted in different ways.

It's also far from certain that exposing people to differing views in this way changed their outlook. In fact, some psychologists believe that reading an opposing viewpoint might simply make a person more likely to get defensive and stick to their own views.

The researchers have now made the tool available to Chrome users at http://balancestudy.org/balancer/.

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