I recently finished reading a great book titled 18 MINUTES by Peter Bergman. I learned a lot from this book – but one of the most interesting things I learned about was a term known as ‘confirmation bias.’
Confirmation bias describes how we look for information, behaviors, and evidence that show us things are the way we believe they should be. In other words, we look to confirm that we’re right.
For example a person holds a belief that left-handed people are more creative than right-handed people. Whenever this person encounters a person that is both left-handed and creative, they place greater importance on this ‘evidence’ supporting their already existing belief. This individual might even seek out “proof” that further backs up this belief while discounting examples that do not support this idea.
Why does this even matter, you might ask? Here are 3 reasons you should keep your confirmation bias in check:
- The world changes and yet we expect it to be the way we think it should be and so we don’t take action. People tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position.
- It causes us to be fooled by our expectations. Usually our expectations are right. But sometimes we’re wrong. Perhaps not always. Perhaps at one time we were right and then things changed. But now, maybe, we’re wrong and we don’t like to admit that. We don’t even see it. Because we’re too busy looking for evidence to confirm our previous ideas.
- We also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting our existing position. This might make us feel better, but it makes us behave worse. Organizations fail. Businesses go under. Relationships fall apart. Because once we form an opinion, we resist changing it.
How do we avoid the trap of being fooled by confirmation bias? Don’t get caught up in how things were, instead ask yourself what has changed. Be honest and open to a new strategy or a new idea that might improve your situation.
What confirmation bias do you struggle with the most?