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Monday, June 13, 2016

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is what psychologists call the human tendency to pay more attention to information and people that support our views and overlook what does not. This well-documented phenomenon often happens on an unconscious level; few of us fully escape its grip. It's possible my own struggle with confirmation bias is exacerbated because of how much I think about my own thinking. Add in the fact that I learn best via listening - vs. looking or doing - and complicate that further with a 24/7 news cycle, including hard-to-escape televisions in the public sphere, and today's reflection is born.

How often have you heard others say "I love so and so (fill in the name of a favorite public figure) because he/she says what is on everyone's mind?" First off, everyone is one of those absolutes signalling muddiness in the thinking of a speaker. But even allowing for the use of an absolute - call it hyperbolic speech - how about a basic recognition of confirmation bias? Surely there are people who do not have whatever that public figure said on their mind, right? How hard would it be to find a different public figure saying the exact opposite of what that favorite of ours is saying?

Switch the channel; read a different columnist; have regular conversations with someone you disagree with more often than you agree. Note to Pat: Follow your own coaching.


  1. Great reminder, Pat!! We often seem to spend time gathering information that confirms out thinking that we don't open our minds to another perspective. Pretty much how congress operates....

    1. lp; So good to see a comment from you. Glad the reminder was helpful. And boy, am I with you on that Congress observation. Wonder how many of those folks are aware of confirmation bias. Yikes!