The Shift in Our Political Mind


Tanha Emita


In 1953, the Algerian war of independence became a famous protest, all credits to the Djamila bombing incident. When arrested for the alleged crime, Djamila Bohired admitted to working with the National Liberation Front (FLN), who were fighting the war firsthand following Maquis fighting techniques. Maquis being guerilla fighters, included and combined the rural and urban populations for the definitive cause. 80% of the maquisards came from rural areas, whereas the rest came from urban localities. A vast portion of the urban participants were students and academics, who quite evidently focused on educating those who were way behind the light of literacy. This served two purposes. If you read, you can understand your situation, and your moral values then drive you to act upon the situation.

How the Algerian war of independence inspired Bangladeshi revolutionists remains undiscussed because of the submissive involvement of other powerful countries during the Liberation War. Professor Abdul Mannan, in his intensive memoir, has written about the Liberation War and the Mujib Bahini, where he spoke about the contemporary influence of the Algerian war, and its adaptation in behavioural practice. He also mentioned the awakening of a teacher-student Think Tank, a community for open-ended discussions. 

Unfortunately, our student politics is on the verge of perishing. Student leaders now take more adverse decisions and engage in unfruitful activities that not only lessen their productivity, but also violate civil rights sometimes. We had virtuous leaders in the ’70s and ’80s from DUCSU, the Communist League of Bangladesh, and student representatives from two of the major political parties in Bangladesh. Nowadays, student politics is just another name for fear and consternation.

An article published by the Carnegie Foundation for the advancement of teaching shed light on how political knowledge is necessary for student leaders. Political knowledge and understanding do more than just affect the quality of political judgments; they help people convert their opinions into many forms of meaningful political involvement and are powerful predictors of political participation. (Althaus, 1998; Delli Carpini and Keeter, 1996; Popkin and Dimmock, 1998). 

The situation appeared as a result of the proactive influence of digital media, and delineation through cognitive bias. It’s a systematic error that compels us to make decisions depending on our memory functions.

Among the hundreds of biases that drive our opinions, confirmation bias is used as a weapon to disintegrate or mislead common view. One can fabricate, program, and misshape confirmation biases without making the proprietor aware of it. It gives the audience an elusive judgment which predominantly leads to irrationality. Confirmation bias develops with a repetition of visual demonstrations of propaganda. And as human evolution exists, we are prone to look for evidence that confirms our views and reject those which can challenge it.

Among the many formulas of cognitive bias, one is known significantly as Risky Shift. It’s a bias that includes group polarisation. An individual may make a decision based on their judgment. But when that decision is made in a group, the outcome is likely to be more diverse, either towards greater risk, or more cautious than made initially. The earliest study on the existence of polarisation in small social groups is commonly attributed to James Stoner, as revealed by the study results from his Master’s thesis (Stoner, 1961). 

Stoner investigated whether or not shifts in decisions occurred among people in small groups, who were involved in some tasks. The tasks were on hypothetical life situations, and in each of these, an individual had to choose one of two courses of action, one of which was more risky or extreme than the other. The participants first recorded their decisions in private, after which they went into group sessions. The participants discussed their answers in their various groups, and then each reached a group decision. The data was analysed quantitatively by comparing the pre-group and post-group responses. The results revealed that shifts did occur in the participants’ pre to post-group discussion decisions. From the results, Stoner found that group decisions were significantly more risky than the mean of the individual group members’ prior decisions.

Confirmation bias is fueling our political differences. Our education system is in ruins. Hierarchy in educational institutions has become a trend. It’s been in open practice, with no intention of teaching children moral values. The young generation is addicted to memes and troll pages rather than engaging in effective communication. World peace, the global movement for the environment, and any organisational activity is adopted only to put a nametag besides social media identities. Confirmation bias is destroying innovation and creativity. 

Then comes the group polarisation effect — the more wrong, the more confident. You click on the news you favour, the algorithms will feed you what you prefer. In group polarisation, fed with confirmation bias, a group can overthink and make bad decisions. According to an article from the Alvernia University Psychology department — “People want to be unique and have opinions that differ from others, which could lead to more extreme views on a certain subject taking hold. This can have dangerous consequences for society as a whole.” Our student politics is headed that way.

Researchers are apprehensive that human culture may go back to the pre-democratic era. Not just in our country, but in most places citizens are feeling a lack of empowerment when it comes to selecting their preferred leaders. This can lead  to the beginning of an epistocracy system, where the votes of people who can prove their political knowledge count more than the votes of people who can’t. In other words, it’s a system that privileges the most politically informed citizens. It may sound fantastic, but the effects of group polarisation in confirmation bias present what damaging fruits the future may yield before us.

Biases create a significant impact on evolution. We must think of ways to further the role of knowledge in political decision making.

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