The Most Common Cognitive Bias
Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true. Francis Bacon
Many years ago Francis Bacon gave a good definition of confirmation bias, if you can forgive his male dominance language. Or how about Karl Weick: Your beliefs are cause maps you impose on the world after which you “see” what you have already imposed. This blog is about how our beliefs often aren’t facts. And about the most common bias, the confirmation bias, when we interpret evidence to confirm to our existing beliefs. As promised, I want to help us get better acquainted with this bias.
It is tempting to point out Donald Trump as the best example of the role of the confirmation bias in his 5,000 lies. He certainly believes to be true what he prefers to be true. However, there seems to be more serious mental, psychological issues. How about looking at how man and woman prefer to believe?
Man, woman, you, me, and republicans and democrats all are good at employing confirmation biases. We do it without knowing we do it, and we do it knowing we are doing it. The prevalence of decision biases is a function of human habit. And a product of human nature — hardwired and highly resistant to feedback.
To me, this is a significant issue today, maybe even a crucial issue, because of the role of bias in current political discourse and the current popular literature about the role of bias in human decision making. Reason and reality are hard to find in politics and rational thinking is hard to find in personal decision making. A common culprit is the popular confirmation bias.
To put it simply, the confirmation bias is when we believe to be true what we want to be true. This is how man and woman prefer to believe. Most people have very little awareness of what or howthey believe. Belief awareness is like self-awareness — it is hard. And you probably can’t do either one by yourself. To get acquainted with and understand your beliefs may require some outside help. And the main reason for help is the confirmation bias.
Ask someone for help. Is what I believe really true? Get feedback from friends and “enemies”. Am I employing the confirmation bias? Or some other cognitive bias? Discuss these biases with others. Get acquainted with your belief system. This constant self-reflection is necessary and helpful because of the common bias blind spot. Researchers find that everyone has a bias blind spot — the failure to notice our own cognitive biases. The bias blind spot is thetendency to recognize the impact of biases on the judgment of others, while failing to see the impact of biases on one’s own judgment. This is why getting feedback from others is helpful, and hard.
Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? Luke 6:41
Human self-deception is one of the most impressive software programs ever devised. David Nyberg.