What is confirmation bias and why is it so common?

Confirmation bias explains so much of our modern society. All the problems we have are rooted in human nature.

Confirmation bias, you could say, is a part of human nature.

Confirmation bias can help explain everything that goes on in private life and institutional life. I know that sounds like a grand claim, but that’s how prevalent and powerful this cognitive concept is.

Before defining confirmation bias and showing some examples of this bias in everyday life, you must understand the biological reasons this mental flaw comes so easily to our species.

Our ancestors thrived as small tribes of 20-50 people.

A human tribe acted as a big family. You shared everything. You thought the same, hunted next to each other and maintained the egalitarian ethos that maintained everyone as equal.

It is the best case of a utopia in history.

This selection pressure made it so that most people think the same way as the group they belong to. This is tribalism, and you see it manifest everywhere in daily life: sports teams, school rivalries, national price, state pride, city pride, Us vs. Them narratives, etc.

Simply put, humans are designed to maintain strong group identity.

If our ancestors too quickly changed their minds, it would have been a threat to the group's survival. In this environment, one that did not respect the group would have quickly found themselves dead or exiled. Thus the environment favored genes that quickly believed what was needed to maintain group cohesion, and all other individuals were quickly weeded out by natural selection. And today, you and I are ancestors to these early humans.

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Confirmation bias is the tendency to find confirming information that supports current beliefs while ignoring any data that conflicts.

Humans are designed to find information that supports what they already believe. This is human nature 101. You could say we are born with a mental defect—one that served is well in the past yet gets us into trouble today.

We are also designed to ignore, most of the time, without realizing it, any information that conflicts with what we already believe.

This is built into our biology through hundreds of thousands of years of natural selection.

Why is confirmation bias so dangerous?

If you look at America's current political landscape, you see extreme polarization of the left and right.

It's gotten so bad that these opposing parities rarely work together on anything productive. Instead, they spend most of their time trying to muscle arm their own agenda while opposing anything from the other side.

Confirmation bias runs rampant in situations like this where you have another side you are "fighting" against. In these situations, there are extra incentives to ignore conflicting ideas.

Polarization leads to all kinds of bad behavior and can lead to radicalization and conflict.

Look to history to see how disastrous this can be when nations move to the extremes: you get war and destruction.

Confirmation bias in a sentence

You're falling victim to confirmation bias.

This is confirmation bias 101.

Confirmation bias is seeking information to support your position while ignoring information that contradicts it.

Confirmation bias is the most common bias that humans fall victim to.

You can't see through your confirmation bias.

Examples of confirmation bias in real life

If you believe that all people are not to be trusted, you will find examples of this in your life. This will further warp your world view, and you might end up never trusting another human again.

The reality is, you see the world through your beliefs-colored glasses, and thus, you are not seeing the many instances of people being trustworthy.

Since you don't see these examples, you keep believing that the world is full of untrustworthy people. And you end up hurting yourself as a result.

If you believe you are discriminated against, you will end up seeing the small percentage of examples where this may be happening while not seeing that the majority of the time, most people do not discriminate. No one should go through life with a chip on their shoulder with a worldview that sets them up for failure. This is the danger of making everything about race, and why the elite love using this low tactic to make the public go at each other.

Confirmation bias can ruin your life if you don't control it.

How to avoid confirmation bias

Avoiding confirmation bias is a tricky topic.

There are many variables, from self-awareness to your knowledge on a certain subject to your listening and communication skills.

Too many variables to address here, so I'll do my best to give you a few of the most important strategies for avoiding this mental trap.

Become self-aware

The more you can know thyself, as Socrates said, the less likely you will fall into the confirmation bias trap.

The first step in knowing yourself is asking yourself hard questions and answering honestly. Maybe you could keep a journal and write through your emotions and thought process.

Consider seeing a therapist or consulting a close, trusted friend to work through some of your inner world. The more you can understand your inner world, the clearer you can see the world.

Instead, most people are unaware of who they are and what they truly want in life. This leads them down many treacherous paths.

Becoming self-aware will make you less likely to slip into confirmation bias. It will make you a more clear-headed thinker.

Falsify your perspective

Think like a scientist and try to prove your beliefs FALSE.

This isn't for the faint of heart since it will challenge your ego by challenging your beliefs.

Pretend you are tasked with debating yourself with the implicit goal of proving wrong your belief system.

You probably won't be able to pull it off successfully, but the very act of trying will stress-test your ideas and make them better as a result.

Make a list of some things you believe and ask yourself, "If this was completely wrong, what would be true?"

Then work through that hypothetical thought experiment and try to come up with a list of possibilities. This practice will make you far more aware than the average person in general and will be a great defense against the trap of confirmation bias.

Ask yourself, "Do I want to believe this?"

Anytime you find yourself wanting to believe something, stop and step back.

You know those times where something sounds too good to be true so you blindly follow without asking questions.

Or those times you get excited because it looks great.

Well, I've learned the hard way over the years that anytime I get excited about something that seems a little too good to be true, it probably is.

There is always one or more things I'm not considering that tends to bring reality back into the picture.

Apply this same hesitation to your thought process: if something comes a bit too easily, if an explanation shows up and fits a bit too nicely into the puzzle, assume you are missing something. Assume there is no way it's that easy and simple..... .because it isn't!