Confirmation Bias – You Can Lead a Horse To Knowledge But Cannot Make It Think

graphic of horse, hammer and dude pulling horse
Sometimes Evidence Needs To Be Bludgeoned In

“You’re bloody right I am right and you watch your mouth!”

I heard this pugnacious paternal pap waay too often during my adolescent years but no amount of snarly spiels could ever make me buy it.

“Who cares what they say!” I would hap-hazardously insinuate to my siblings, once safely out of oppressor ear shot. “Mom and dad don’t know everything.”

Whenever I dared ask our handlers why our lives had to unfold exactly the way they suggested,  every dictator parroted the same hollow reply: Uh, because I said so, that’s why …

Yeah, sure. I guess that is all the proof we need then …

Right, Right, You’re Bloody Well Right

Confirmation bias is a term which describes the innate human compulsion to adhere to preconceived notions of reality through limiting which evidence we will focus upon to support those beliefs.

In layman’s terms we call this wishful thinking and the phrase is often utilized in those instances where we want to impress upon some lunkhead that their version of existence is doubtful at best.

“You wish!” is an oft echoed exhortation to simpletons suggesting improbable scenarios.

So how, you might ask, does confirmation bias raise it’s ugly head in my daily interaction? Well, here is how:

1.My Way or The Highway – most of us support our point of view by focusing only on that evidence which supports our opinion. This leaves the entire “wrong” side to be discovered and analyzed.

2.What Is The Meaning of This? – we reinterpret all information which might run counter to our beliefs even when we finally do admit that it exists.

3.My Missing Memory – memories supporting our world view are easily recalled while non supporting memories are buried. Our minds are as malleable as silly putty.

4.Two Possible Understandings and Yours Is Wrong – ambiguous circumstances abound and confirmation bias ensures any leeway in comprehension goes to the benefit of our currently held beliefs.

The underlying nature of confirmation bias is that it restricts our awareness and this is why it is so difficult to change anyone’s mind about anything. We employ this critical trait to maintain our equilibrium and it is quite understandable why we must constantly discount those circumstances which undermine our preferred perception of reality.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Mark Twain warned us against being so easily led by our noses and he cautioned that this ubiquitous capacity could be easily used against us by individuals with nefarious plans.

Here is just a tad of what Mr. Clemens was referring to:

1.My New Friend Mr. Con – folks are easily tricked when they focus only on the good stuff. Less than honest companies and confidence men  (now called marketers 😉 ) are on the constant lookout for naive suckers seeking magical ROI. (return on investment)

2. Dead Certain – imagining nonexistent skills is one of the more cruel jokes confirmation bias plays on soon-to-be dead equipment operators and those they impact.

3.Same Hammer, Different Fingerpeople focused on their own intelligence often discount the wisdom of others which causes them to repeat mistakes that could easily be avoided.

4.No, Hubris Is a Type of Cake – anyone suffering from confirmation bias considers themselves so smart that there is little room for improvement. Stupid moves in right after lazy and in today’s world there is no such thing as staying the same while getting better.

graphic of man and people in boxes connected by eclipses
Stuff Changes Just By Thinking About It

Think Twice Think Twice

Through pondering the fact that all humans live in a cage of our own strong beliefs, we can engage the key to unlock our ability to stretch beyond those limitations.

And for those of us that figure this out, we can rest assured that our curiosity will take us far beyond what our parents ever thought possible.

And we will know we are right, uh … because.

Thank you, friend.

Barry out.

PS. There is a ton more to be learned about confirmation bias and you can start by clicking on these links.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

http://www.skepdic.com/confirmbias.html

http://faculty.babson.edu/krollag/org_site/soc_psych/lord_death_pen.html

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