The Globe as you know it is changing.
Coming June 2019

  • More thought-provoking stories that inspire
  • Independent, free and member-supported
  • Vote for, pitch and commission stories
  • Member engagement with our journalists

To understand more about why you are so important to our member-supported initiative, we encourage you to read the following from our managing editor ~ Read more

The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

If you’re interested in joining us, sign up to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. And watch this space.

Confirmation bias and the science of belief

By: David Hutt - Posted on: March 25, 2016 | Business

Can you see the wheels spinning? Just like this optical illusion, our minds can be tricked into seeing what isn’t there thanks to a concept called confirmation bias

Humans, it turns out, are not rational beings. We are prone to emotional, irrational beliefs and biases. Of those, confirmation bias might be one of the most dangerous.

Suppose, for example, that you are a budding entrepreneur and interested in opening an organic coffee shop in Phnom Penh. You look around: many such shops are opening and, from what you have observed, they are rarely empty.

sizedrotatingcirclesCambodia also has a young population, and young people like to socialise. There’s a growing middle-class who like coffee shops. There’s rising disposable income, ready to be spent on the latest trend. Your friends all say it is a great idea and, of course, they will drink there every day.

You’ve also done taste tests, and a large number of people say they prefer your brew to ordinary coffee. A good amount say they would also be prepared to pay the extra $2 you are charging – though some pesky samplers say they wouldn’t, because they couldn’t afford it every day. In any case, the stars seem to the aligning that your business will be a success, so you open.

Suppose, then, one year on, and your coffee shop is empty. No one wants to spend the extra cash on organic coffee. You might have to close soon. What has gone wrong? In this hypothetical example, there are many possibilities: a bad choice of location or poor advertising, for instance. But let’s focus on another: your original research was biased.

You wanted to open the coffee shop so much that you only looked at the information that supported the concept – friends’ support, positive taste tests, the simple justification that people like coffee. But you ignored the information that said it was a bad idea: the saturated coffee market, the high cost of your product, the overestimation of people’s spending powers. You were susceptible to ‘confirmation bias’.

When the high priests of free-market economics – Adam Smith, David Ricardo, John Stuart Mill – began positing the foundations of capitalism in the 18th and 19th centuries, they were guided by the belief that people were logical thinkers, who would run economies in equally rational ways. We were not homo sapiens, we were homo economicus – the economic man.

However, according to Richard Thaler, author of Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioural Economics and professor of behavioural science at the University of Chicago, economists “must stop making excuses” and accept the fact that humans are human, fallible and liable to irrational beliefs and biases – one of the most prominent examples being confirmation bias.

It goes something like this: we have an idea, opinion or hunch. We then look for information about it. However, the fallibility of humans means we tend to seek information that supports our belief, whilst at the same time ignoring the information that runs counter to it.

Although the concept has been known for centuries – Greek historian Thucydides wrote in around 400BC that “it is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not fancy” – the term was coined by Peter Wason, a cognitive psychologist at University College London, in the 1960s.

A famous test took place a decade later at the University of Minnesota, conducted by psychologists Mark Snyder and Nancy Cantor. They began by creating an imaginary woman called Jane. During the course of Jane’s imagery day, she would do some activities that were introverted, like drinking alone in a coffee shop, and some things that were extroverted, like socialising with friends. The team then asked participants to read Jane’s story and, days later, divided them into two groups. One was asked if Jane would make a good librarian; the other if she would make a good real estate agent.

Synder and Cantor discovered that the group who were asked if Jane would make a good librarian only remembered details about her invented life that meant she was right for the position, which tended to be the introverted moments. The group concentrating on the real estate agent job only recalled events that showed she was extroverted, socially confident and suitable, ignoring the evidence that showed otherwise.

The study not only revealed that people search for information that confirms a certain preconception, but that even memories can fall prey to confirmation bias. This is an example of what psychologists often call ‘selective recall’ –  the habit of remembering only facts and experiences that reinforce our assumptions.

Confirmation bias is just one of the numerous inbuilt bugs of the human psyche. Yet, there are ways of moderating it that could be of use in a business environment.

One of the biggest contributors to confirmation bias is said to be the fact that people in decision-making positions often surround themselves with ‘yes-men’ or those who share the same opinions and thoughts. One of the richest men on earth, Warren Buffet, is keenly aware of this.

In 2013, Forbes magazine explored exactly how Buffett attempts to avoid succumbing to confirmation bias, and what this means to financial investors. It warned: “For investors, confirmation bias is particularly dangerous. Once an investor starts to like a company, for example, he may dismiss negative information as irrelevant or inaccurate.” The same can be said for entrepreneurs or any businessperson.

Explaining what it dubbed the ‘Buffett Approach’, Forbes described the 2013 annual general meeting for Berkshire Hathaway, a multinational conglomerate for which Buffett is the chief executive officer. Instead of inviting claquers, who would applaud at whatever Buffett said, he invited Doug Kass, a hedge fund manager and constant critic of Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway, as a guest speaker.

Forbes described this as “largely unprecedented” and applauded Buffett’s simple act of giving “voice to opinions that contradict his own”. Indeed, creating a “culture of challenge” was just one of the suggestions for fighting confirmation bias that was expounded upon in an 2003 article in the McKinsey Quarterly, written by Charles Roxburgh, who was director at McKinsey’s London office at the time.

It advised management teams to value open and constructive criticism. “Criticising a fellow director’s strategy should be seen as a helpful, not a hostile, act. CEOs and strategic advisers should understand criticisms of their strategies, seek contrary views on industry trends, and, if in doubt, take steps to assure themselves that opposing views have been well researched,” Roxburgh wrote.

Another piece of advice is to not ask for “validation of your strategy, [but] ask for a detailed refutation”. So, when setting up a new business plan or strategy, make sure there’s a “challenger team” within the company that works to identify the flaws in the strategy.

Challenging and constantly seeking information that runs counter to your own opinion are, of course, excellent ways of evading the perils of confirmation bias. But, arguably, one of the most important steps is to realise and understand that your beliefs and decision-making abilities are not as rational and impenetrable as you first thought. As the saying goes: the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem.  

Keep reading:
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