We will start with the definition.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or strengthens one’s prior personal beliefs or hypotheses.
Sounds familiar? I am sure it does because we all have confirmation biases, there are no exceptions. It is a cognitive bias, which means it is involuntary. Our brains are wired that way. We look for comfort in familiar places. We seek validation for our way of thinking. We feel secure when we are around people who look like us, think like us, talk like us, pray like us, dress like us, etc. Human beings are social and tribal beings. That is a universal fact. We always look to fit in a group, any group. We long for human connection, community, attention, validation, love, admiration, security, understanding, reciprocity, etc. We want to be understood. We want to belong. This need to belong is imprinted in our DNA and it is reinforced by the culture we live in and society’s norms. It’s been happening since…forever.
I believe our confirmation bias muscles have been exponentially exacerbated by this social media world we unwillingly (or willingly?) live in for the past 15-20 years. Their damn algorithms that push us to stay scotched on our screens and watch videos for endless hours. They have got us exactly where they want us. Listen, I watch YouTube for hours, I scroll through Instagram a good portion of the day. I don’t have Facebook, but they own Instagram, so the same algorithms run both platforms. I cannot escape this virtual world any more than the next person. They want to maximize time viewership at almost any cost. The New York times did a great investigation on the matter (go listen to the podcast called The Rabbit Hole), I can assure you it is mildly or profoundly scary.
Since I have the mind of a scientist at heart, meaning I believe in coming up with a hypothesis and then testing it, I did an experiment of my own; I went through a few Instagram pages, looking for new workout routines. So, I followed a few trainers, liked some other working out videos and I kept searching for new routines. Then, my search engine was filled overwhelmingly with new Instagram workout pages, trainers, nutrition, athletic gear, etc. Suddenly, my whole world was limited to working out related pages. It didn’t take long, barely 24 hours and suddenly, you’d think Instagram’s algorithm thought I wanted to either become an Olympian or a personal trainer, for crying out loud!
Working out is awesome for the mind and the body. Moreover, as a tool of influence, it is quite harmless. Well, there is always the occasional moronic trainer that shames people for not working out, as if we are required by law to do so! Moving on…Now, imagine if one follows conspiracy theories and/or fundamentalist religion pages of any religion denomination. What follows is simple; the confirmation bias gets reinforced. It becomes as hard as concrete. The confirmation bias becomes impenetrable. The world they live in becomes their only world and they quickly become unresponsive to new and different ideas. They don’t recognize any outside world. Only theirs exists. They will fight anyone who says otherwise. Besides, some “geniuses” deny facts! Who really denies proven unbiased facts? What kind of person does that? Who can deny the earth is a sphere? There are pictures taken from satellites proving that! Pretty soon, people will deny death exists. They will say blood isn’t red, gravity doesn’t exist, Santa Claus is real, and people can fly using prayer…I swear to the Gods!!!!
It is hard to get rid of our confirmation bias. I know it firsthand. I have my own confirmation biases, like everyone else. I’ll name a few I had to get rid of:
- having a heavy accent in a language means you aren’t too bright
- incredibly beautiful girls and guys are shallow
- introverts and silent people are booooring
- bullies don’t have an internal trauma; they just enjoy inflicting pain on people
- rich people are pricks
- poor people are all decent
- ugly women are great in bed
- guys who are obsessed with their appearance are most likely closeted gay people
- people who have multiple degrees lack personal skills
- people who post too many pics of themselves on social media are narcissists
Is there any truth to any of these statements? I am sure we could find some, yet, they cannot be general rules, it is mathematically quite implausible. I changed my mind on all those points but sometimes, my brain just goes back to the bias and I have to pinch myself to come back to reality and try to be unbiased. Not an easy thing to do by the way!
Biases subconsciously limit our worldview and we end up putting our own minds in boxes, which, isn’t a good thing. The world is complex, complicated and diverse. There are hundreds of thousands of cultures, thousands of languages, hundreds of religions, more than 200 sovereign countries, 7 continents, a whole universe outside of our galaxy. Our own environment, culture, education, DNA limit our brain and capacity of understanding others. Based on the richness of this world, isn’t it sad that we would keep these biases?
The thing is, there isn’t only one way of living life. There is a vast array of ways to live, think, talk, walk, pray, eat, dance, workout, etc. Yours might work for you but it doesn’t mean it is the ONLY one or even the RIGHT one. Do not be obtuse, it narrows your mind and ability to adapt. Open your mind. Listen to the others. You might learn something. I am not saying you should accept whatever others tell you. Just think about it. Put your own biases on the side. It takes years and years of practice. It will never be perfect, but it is worth it.
Humanity is amazing. Try to embrace it. Not everyone is out there to get you, just sayin…Open your mind and your heart and the richness of our world will flow in your heart. The beauty of the world is unparalleled, so take advantage of that simple unbiased fact.
Just one man’s opinion.
Now smile and go on with your day!