Sunday, September 2, 2012

Psych 700/Web bias


Media bias and stereotyping on the web impacts the type of information Internet users digest. This information, while sometimes easy to recognize, can also be difficult to identify without the proper skills or education. 


Over the years, the Internet has become a trusted resource for information. As society absorbs information at such a rapid rate, the volume can at times be difficult to evaluate. Knowing what to ignore and what to pay attention to, can become overwhelming.  "The Internet is a place where you can find "proof" of essentially any belief system that you can imagine."(November & Mull, 2012)  Without the proper skills, it becomes difficult to distinguish media bias and stereotyping. 

Evaluating information on the web is similar to building a muscle. Once you work out the muscle long enough, the muscle develops a memory. In the same way, the internet user applies an evaluation checklist and if used often enough, a habit can be formed while gathering information. Once the research skill is honed after use and time, the internet consumer is equipped with the ability to identify and incorporate factual information into education, work, or recreation. The following checklist is a necessary skill used to evaluate Internet sites:
  • Determine who is providing the information by using sites such as
  • Discover the expertise of the source through credentials or professional associations.
  • Determine the level of objectivity.
  • Establish currency or date of publication.(How to Evaluate,) 
While developing research skills can be a key component to successful bias identification and information gathering, is it full proof? Equipping researchers with the proper tools to identify web bias and stereotyping may only be part of the equation. While it's important to be aware of our own bias, it may influence the way we see the information researched. Communications researcher Scott Reid, of UC at Santa Barbara, performed a series of experiments with college age students revealing that our perception of bias changes depending on the self-identity currently in our mind. He went on to find that we interpret information based on how we see the relationship between ourselves and the author of an article. (Stray, June) These experiments offer a glimpse into an unchecked bias that may affect the way internet users view their research, impacting the final outcome. 

If the development of research skills is flawed by self-bias, could education be the answer? Introducing web literacy at a young age may foster the development of finding, organizing, and making sense of the information taken in. Alan November explains the experience of a young student, Zack who spent time researching the Internet and determined through his research that the Holocaust did not occur. Without the skills necessary to validate Internet content, Zack was not able to think critically about the information he was researching. "He had been taught to read paper, but he had not been taught to read the web."(November & Mull, 2012) Educating youth early on could provide the framework needed when self-bias arises later in life. In this way, our youth will be aware of proper Internet research while developing self awareness. Teaching our children to be responsible consumers of the Internet, could impact the development of society long term.


As researchers and as human beings, we need to be aware of our surroundings, and in today's world this includes the Internet. The information we obtain needs to be vetted, questioned and confirmed. When we open our mind, training it to seek truth and recognize bias within both text and motives, we can begin to arrive at a conclusion.


How to Evaluate Information-Checklist.(n.d.). Retrieved from

Lehrer, J. (2012, June 12). Why Smart People are Stupid. The New Yorker

November, A., & Mull, B. (2012, May 08). Why more schools aren't teaching web literacy-and 
     how they can start. Retrieved from 

Stray, J. (June, 2012 27). How do you tell when the news is biased? it depends on how you 
     see yourself. Retrieved from

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