When you invest in quality education, you also decide to invest in cultivating the ability to form your own opinions. Lately, the two-party system in the U.S. has become more polarized than ever, and instances of both liberal and conservative bias in the media have risen. Constant exposure to this biased information can clog your vision and make it difficult for you to form and hold on to authentic opinions.
Here are seven effective tips for international students in the U.S. to solve this problem and make the most of their education:
1. Diversify the Sources of Information
We tend to be the most influenced by the first piece of information that we stumble upon. We start using it as an anchor, and constantly compare any following information to our original source.
If a story interests you, don’t believe what you read or hear instantly. Do your best to dig deeper. Read about it on different news outlets, and open yourself up to multiple perspectives. You can then make up your own mind about the situation. This way, you can use the media just as a source of information, and not let it force its opinions on you.
2. Look for Evidence-Based Information
Always look for evidence when you are given facts in a news story. By doing this, the chances of information being skewed are less. Research and find out if the media outlet actually has evidence, or is just claiming to have evidence. If you do find a source that backs up the facts, check its legitimacy.
3. Learn about the Political Inclinations of Your Sources
You must know which news outlets lean towards which set of political beliefs. Once you are informed about their biases, you can critically analyze the information that they present to you.
Those whose views are more liberal tend to prefer watching CNN and MSNBC, while those who are more conservative tend to prefer Fox News. This is not a coincidence, as the political inclination of these channels attracts an audience with a similar set of political beliefs.
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4. Learn Who Funds Your Sources
You must find out who owns or funds the media outlet that you choose to rely on. Once you find this out, ask yourself, “How can this affect the way the network presents information?” If you understand the reason behind media biases, you can view the information media outlets present through a much more objective lens.
5. Avoid Sources that Do Not Present More than One Side of a Story
If a media outlet seems incapable of presenting more than one side of a story, you should see it as a major red flag. Every story needs to be analyzed from different points of view in order for you to develop an informed opinion. If a media outlet does not give you this opportunity, it’s time to turn to more reliable sources for information.
6. If Something Sounds Too Good or Too Bad to be True- It Most Likely Is
If a media outlet presents an extreme take on a story, do not believe it at face value. Unbiased news tends to be neutral and objective. Subjective and extreme opinions in a news story don’t leave much room for you to think for yourself. These types of news stories are designed to persuade you; not to inform you. They often rely on hindsight bias, cite examples from the past, and try to convince you that because a certain event has occurred in the past, it can be predicted to occur again.
Learning from the past is one thing, but counting on history to repeat itself is not advisable. Mark Twain once said, “History Doesn’t Repeat Itself, but It Often Rhymes.” If you understand this difference, you can save yourself from being manipulated by the media.
7. Be Flexible in Your Approach
Think about what biases you are more prone to give into and why. It is important to question media outlets, but it’s equally important to question your own approach. Don’t believe everything that aligns with your preexisting beliefs and values. You should try to side with the truth, even when it’s difficult. This way, you can avoid falling prey to confirmation bias.
The ability to alter your beliefs upon receiving new information is the key to forming unbiased opinions. There is no shame in updating your beliefs after you come across rational arguments that are based on facts.
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