Confirmation bias infection

24 Aug

“I don’t care what you say, I know what I know! And this is a problem that affects A LOT of people!”

Have you ever run into someone so wedded to her own view that she denies any evidence to the contrary?

If so, then you my friend have been stymied by Confirmation Bias.  The way I understand this pretty common phenomenon is that once someone’s mind is made up, he is loath to change it, no matter the data to the contrary.

We are all guilty of tendencies in this direction. And you can imagine that in our election season where Americans seem so impossibly entrenched in their points of view, this type of behavior pops up across the political spectrum.  No one is immune.

Why is that?  I think we have grown increasingly suspicious of ‘other’, attributing almost malicious motives to those with whom we disagree.

Love me love my dog As my dad grew older, he idolized his two dogs.  This pillow’s message was his recurrent mantra.  I see a similar tendency in our society these days.


And woe be to anyone who disagrees with someone’s opinion, because in criticizing that person’s conviction, you are attacking the person (so he FEELS).

What to do?

Fortunately, there is a type of remedy and it doesn’t cost a penny.  Recently I listened to a discussion about confirmation bias.  And I was challenged by a practice I heard in the radio program’s interview with Dennis Prager.  In the conversation about entrenched views and a divided country, the interviewer asked him to pick one of his ‘Pragerisms’ that he tried to live himself.  He quickly offered:

  • Seek clarity over agreement

Well that applies across the board to many relationships, doesn’t it!  Right off the bat I thought of marriage.  Beyond that particular arena, this advice would do us all good in our polarized world.

And do you know what?  If our goal is to understand the other person’s point of view and to be able to articulate it accurately to HIS or HER satisfaction, then the pressure to change that person’s mind or cleverly present OUR view melts away.

We’ll also inoculate ourselves against the contagion of confirmation bias.  One person CAN make a difference in his corner of the world.


3 Responses to “Confirmation bias infection”

  1. littleaprilshower August 24, 2016 at 6:39 am #

    Confirmation bias is the WORST, everyone is so stuck in their views that they don’t want to waste time listening to everyone else’s viewpoint because from their perspective, everyone else is wrong. And it’s just so annoying because it makes arguments worse if one person isn’t even willing to listen to the other person. You see confirmation bias everywhere. They only listen to things that confirm their viewpoint because they believe that no matter what, they are right and want to prove it.

    • Maria August 24, 2016 at 7:56 am #

      April – thanks for commenting. At least those of us who recognize this harmful trend can fight it in ourselves! But I’m often blind to my own faults at the same time that I am skilled at detecting the faults of others. Help me, Holy Spirit, the God of Truth!

      • littleaprilshower August 24, 2016 at 9:11 am #

        Yeah hopefully we can change things! One person at a time haha. That’s often the case, we can give great advice to others but can’t give ourselves the same advice because we can’t see what we are doing wrong.

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