Connection distance affects how we perceive contrary information

By default, we seem wired to hold on to our existing biases and beliefs. We are attracted to reinforcing information and reject contrary information. If we care about genuine understanding, we need to consciously work at self-awareness and critical thinking. This is easier said than done!

Looking at vaccine reticence and rejection, we can see the following characteristics.

The more distant and impersonal a source of contrary information is, the less likely we are to distrust it.

The connection distance opens up the opportunity to insert simplistic comfortable explanations, like conspiracy theories, to explain away the contrary information.

The more distant a connection, the easier it is to frame that source of contrary information as the “other” who is against us and not for us. This is black-and-white thinking.

Social Norm Theory explains this phenomenon. What we believe the people around us believe, is our “truth” and the reality we operate under.

Distant and impersonal sources of information, when enough of the people around us start repeating (they don’t have to believe) it, becomes our reality! And from that point on, if we are not careful, we can increasingly strengthen our bias bubble.

On the positive side, if enough people around us start echoing information contrary to our beliefs, we are more likely to change our belief over time.