I spent the Presidents Day holiday evening hanging out with some great pals. We had a blast. As usual, our discourse was dominated by matured fact-filled analytical reasoning. One area we spent time perusing was the impact of confirmation biases on our society and on humanity in general.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to select, believe and defend information that confirms one’s existing beliefs or opinion on something. It is that human penchant to give special weight to information that allows us to come to the conclusion we desire while ignoring other facts or information that challenges our existing beliefs.
All of us are susceptible to this tricky problem called confirmation bias.
For the most, people like to think that their beliefs are a product of actualities, experience and objective analysis of the information they have available. The reality is that all of us are susceptible to this tricky problem called confirmation bias. In general, our cognitive assimilation and interpretation of information is subject to deep bias.
As an example, let’s analyze trends during elections. People tend to pursue selective information that decorates their favorite candidates in beauty and perfection, but pursue and spread any information that casts the opposing candidate in a negative image.
Similarly, when news of mass shootings in America breaks in the media, some people seek out news stories and opinion pieces that reaffirm the need for review of gun ownership by the “mentally disturbed”. They spend time only with opinions that believe the solution to the gun violence is not more guns.
On the other hand, many are adamantly opposed to gun control. So, they seek out news sources that are aligned with their position. They interpret things in a way that supports their current views on gun control. They stand with the view that the solution to a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun.
In other words, we hunt news that supports our existing beliefs and, to the end, fall prey to selective recall of information, and passionately defend our penchant to magnetize or absorb information that backs our beliefs. This is how Warren Buffett explains it: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.”
Since confirmation bias maneuvers us cognitively to ignore available evidence especially when it is unfriendly for our faculties, we will always have anomalous opinions on any subject or global circumstances even if we read the same story.
Besides, because our conceptions are based on information that confirms our cognitive biases, we might even tend to entertain and accept only “evidence” or information that supports and advance our opinions and theories.
For the most, people have continued to find ways to defend their subsequent cognitive dissonance even when what they stand for is proven to be untrue. But like Francis Bacon wrote: “The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects.”