Confirmation Bias


Let’s say your elbow is itchy, and you are starting to fear that it might be serious. You type in google “itchy elbow, serious symptom”, and in 20 minutes you are convinced that you have elbow cancer, space AIDS, and a severe case of acute ladidadidosis. The more you search, the more certain you are of your impending doom.

In a similar fashion, you may type “dolphins are racist”, and find out all about dolphins being the secret force behind holocaust.

You can easily find a confirmation for any belief, and people often do.

We tend to look for information that confirms our beliefs. We jump to conclusions, assume that our initial guess is correct, and then look for evidence that supports it.

That is called confirmation bias, and it has many effects that prevent us from being more intelligent and developing accurate beliefs.

We set higher standards for evidence that disagrees with our ideas. For example, if you don’t believe in evolution, you may say that this is because there’s a gap in the fossils between monkeys and humans, and so there’s not enough evidence to prove that evolution is true. At the same time, you may have no problem taking an old book and the words of a priest as a convncing support for your beliefs.

When information is ambiguous, we tend to interpret it as supporting our existing position. Lets say someone was rude to you the first time youve met, then the next time he does something nice, you may think that he’s just being manipulative or wants something from you, so you become even more convinced that this is a bad person. On the other hand if the first time you’ve met someone he was nice, and is now he’s acting like a jerk, you may just assume that he’s simply having a bad day.

Also, we remember things selectively — facts that prove us right are easier to recall. People who believe in horoscopes, probably do that because they can easily remember all the times horoscopes were right, and forget or ignore countless times they were wrong.

To overcome confirmation bias, try to balance the sources you get your information from, to look at the both sides of the argument, think about what kind of evidence would disprove your theory, and actively search for things that challenge your beliefs.