Friday 5 April 2013

Jon Ronson on ... something critically important.

Jon Ronson's low-key laid-back documentaries are marvels of understated profundity. He's just started a new series of his long-running BBC Radio 4 programme Jon Ronson On... and the first episode is all about confirmation bias. Not to be missed.
(available until 11th April)

Brilliant stuff, featuring Uri Geller (who admits to confirmation bias, but doesn't seem to realise that's what he's doing). Here's a clip:

Here's the blurb from the BBC website:

Writer and documentary maker Jon Ronson returns for another five-part series of fascinating stories shedding light on the human condition. 

In the first programme, he investigates confirmation bias - or why so many people look for evidence that confirms their pre-existing beliefs. 

Jon believes he may be susceptible to confirmation bias himself. Over the last two years he has kept noticing that the time on his phone is 11.11. After looking on the internet, he found out there are many other people also doing this, including Uri Geller who first started noticing the number 11 over twenty years ago. Jon has also discovered that a particular community of people believe 11.11 is a sign for a new spirit guide who will come to earth, coincidentally known as Monjoronson. He speaks to the owner of the Monjoronson web domain, Ron Besser, and asks if it is possible that Jon himself is the spirit guide they're looking for.

Jon talks to other people who have been affected by confirmation bias, including an Oxford academic who believes her fate can be determined by looking at two lip balm pots. 

The journalist David Aaronovitch says he believed the delusions he had while suffering intensive care psychosis after a routine operation were real. 

Lotfi Raissi, the first person to be charged in connection with the September 11th attacks, tells Jon he believes his arrest was down to confirmation bias because he fitted a certain profile. A judge found there was no evidence to link Raissi to any form of terrorism. 

Finally Jon speaks to the lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, who believes people who are prone to confirmation bias are more likely to be recruited to police forces.

Producer: Lucy Greenwell
A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.