Have you ever stopped to think where your opinions and beliefs come from? If you are like most people, you probably think that your convictions are the result of years of experience and objective analysis of the information you have available. But the reality is that all of us fall into a very common mistake that goes totally unnoticed and is called confirmation bias.
Although we like to imagine that our opinions are rational, logical and objective, the truth is that many of our ideas are often based on the fact that We selectively pay attention to the information that truly defends our ideas, while unconsciously ignoring that part of the information that does not commune with us.. Which is the same: we see what we want to see and we hear what we want to hear.
- 1 What is confirmation bias
- 2 Dangers of confirmation bias
- 3 Combat confirmation bias
What is confirmation bias
In the 1960s, cognitive psychologist Peter Cathcart Wason conducted a series of experiments with which he demonstrated that people naturally tend to seek information that confirms their existing beliefs. Regrettably, this type of bias can prevent us from looking at situations objectively. It can also influence the decisions we make and lead us to make poor or flawed choices.
A confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias which implies the tendency to search and consider more intensely and selectively that information that confirms what we already think. Thus, we interpret more positively those facts that basically support our previous opinions. It is a cognitive prejudice that encourages us to continue according to our beliefs in order to avoid contradicting ourselves.
For example, imagine that a person believes that children who drink breast milk are smarter than those who drink artificial milk. Whenever this person encounters a child who gets high academic scores and has been breastfed naturally, he will give more importance to this "evidence" that supports what he already believes, in turn ignoring those who also get very good scores but have taken replacement milk. This individual could even look for scientific evidence to further support this thought, while discarding examples that do not support the idea.
Confirmation biases they affect the way we collect information about something, for example in the type of press we read, the blogs we visit, the news network we see, the people we interact with, etc. But they also influence the way we interpret and remember that information. For example, people who support or oppose a particular issue will not only seek information to support it, but also they will interpret the news in a way that defends their previous ideas and remember things so that these attitudes are reinforced by a kind of selective thinking.
Dangers of confirmation bias
The most common consequences of our confirmation biases are:
Lack of criteria
We tend to see and hear only what we want, that is, what confirms that we are really right. The data that contradict the things with which we do not communicate, we consider as false, erroneous or minimized so that they do not have a real effect on our way of thinking. The changes, deep down, we don't like.
We look for information in a biased way
We want to believe in our internal jurisdiction that we are objective, but deep down we look for information in media that are related to our beliefs (newspapers, magazines, Internet, opinion forums, YouTube, news ...), trying to find what confirms what we already think. This, unfortunately, leads us to have a polarized and biased view of problems, as well as possible solutions.
We tend to prejudice
A prejudice is have a prior trial before knowing something firsthand. If we think that men drive better than women, we will be more attentive and will condemn an infraction of a woman behind the wheel than that of a man. A foul in football, you will see it before and it will be more true for the opposing team than for your own. We will prejudge and devalue societies and communities that are different from us, people, etc ...
Also our memories are affected by this bias. So, we tend to remember past data that suits us best, those who benefit in some way our stories and those who reaffirm us positively in the present. That is why two people never remember the same event in the same way. Memories are tremendously subjective.
We will misjudge people
We judge how more intelligent and reliable to those people who have the same beliefs and values as we. We also consider them with a higher morale and with greater integrity than others. If we are from the left, we will judge politicians of this tendency more permissively if they are wrong and we will be sure that they are somehow better people than those of the right, and vice versa. The same goes for different religious beliefs.
Fight confirmation bias
Unfortunately, we all sin confirmation bias, on one level or another. Even if we believe we are open-minded and observe the facts as impartially as possible before reaching conclusions, it is very likely that even so, some kind of bias shapes our final opinion. And is that it is very difficult to combat this natural tendency.
However, if at least We know what this type of bias is and we accept the fact that it exists, we can try to recognize it. That can help us see things from another perspective, although it is never a guarantee.