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“I told you so!” – How the Confirmation Bias distorts our reality

Written by John Kuder

Table Of Contents


Hi. We’re back with another cognitive bias. Ooh, cool. What’s this one? So cognitive bias I want to just jump in on this for a minute because there’s another word that applies and it’s heuristic. Heuristic is kind of the, the, the, I want to call it the umbrella that our cognitive biases and metal model models fall under.

Cuz it, it is… Heuristic means mental shortcut. Okay. And, and so the cognitive biases are kind of an unconscious, mental shortcut, whereas the mental models are a conscious, intentional mental shortcut. So with that, okay, what we’re, we’re looks, this is a heuristic and, but it is truly a bias and it is called confirmation bias.

Yes. And we are what’s, we’re all familiar with it. We are, we are. We really are. So tell me about it. Okay, so I, and I’m, I’m using some notes here cuz there’s some specifics here. Okay. With this bias, we, we notice, okay. We search for mm-hmm. , we interpret. Mm-hmm. , we favor and we remember information that it, we already believe or value.

Okay. It’s also called the my side. Oh, I like that one. . We, we like my side. We like what? Our side, right? Yeah. We like my side. We like stuff that agrees with our side . We like people that are on our side. Okay, so confirmation that that helps, you know, claim it or des describe it. The other side of the, my side bias is that we also discount dismiss.

Or ignore what disagrees with what we value. Oh, oh, . Okay. It is so human right, and it’s so unconscious. So let’s just go back a little bit. We noticed, so th this is where. .

Well, one a simple example is, you know, when we, when we’re looking for a particular car, right? We, we, we just, we’re getting close to making a decision on a car.

Mm-hmm. . And we say, you know, I want that particular make and model. And all of a sudden, everywhere we look, we see ’em. . Ah, true. Okay. That’s the notice part. There’s not any more of ’em on the road than there were the day before we decided we wanted that car , they didn’t just suddenly appear. Right. Okay. But, but we’re tuned, you know, we notice.

Okay. All right. When we are, when we’re looking for information mm-hmm. , we will tend to search for, again, it’s very close to this notice, but we will, we’ll, we’ll spend a little more effort looking for stuff that agrees with what. , excuse me, with what we believe or value, then then information that does that disagrees.

Okay. Yeah. Totally natural. Again, interpreting when we see information that it’s, it’s basically neutral information and there’s a bunch of research that’s been done on. What, like, you believe one thing, I believe the opposite. We both see the same thing or like, well, we in that in the videos, the the PBS special, the hack in your mind, right?

They, they had, they haven’t watched it watches. They did the, the thing with the kids where they, young kids, they gave them, they, they had ’em put on a a t-shirt of either green or orange. Yeah. And then they showed ’em a picture of two. With, you know, just a, a scene and, and they interpreted that scene differently based on the color of the T-shirt that the kids in the picture were wearing.

And they were, they favored. favored the, the same color T-shirt. And, and then so what they did with the, you know, with the next kid is they switched t-shirts obviously, but they also switched the color on the in the scene at the show. Right. And the, and the kid at the same thing. So, you know, one of the, one of the examples was there was a, a child sitting on the ground crying and a nu another child standing up next to them.

And, and that scene was interpreted. You know, as, as to whether the, the child that was standing was being helpful and, and trying to help them get up, or, or that child had, had caused them to be on the ground crying. Yeah. And, and that’s all, it’s all based on T-shirt, the whole thing. The only information they had was the color of the T-shirts.

Yeah. And the picture. So that’s the, that’s the favoring part of it. And, and interpreting really favoring would be, yeah. We are, we’re given maybe three pieces of information. We’re gonna pick the one that agrees with what we. and, and, and leave the rest alone. And then and recalling it’s, it also works for.

so we’re, oh, okay. We, we might see, you know, several different things, but we, but we remember the, the parts that agree with what we already found important or valuable. Can we like that? We are , we’re imperfect. There’s no question around it. Okay. So there’s a, there’s a famous quote that that really caps encapsulates this particular confirmation bias, this con.

This bias is a cognitive bias, not a, a social bias. In other words, it’s not about a particular type of person or characteristic of a person. It is a, it’s how, it’s about how we think and how we process information, so, oh, okay. That word bias get, you know, has different meanings. Yeah, it does. In our society.

So I wanna be sure to cover that. Right. But the, the famous quote is, we don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are. just really puts a pin on that. That’s pretty cool. I, I consider it, and I, I believe my research is . I believe that my research confirmed this is that this confirmation bias is a re reality distortion process.

So try that one again. Reality distortion. We, we see. Wow. But we see them through a filter of what we believe or value, rather than just as they are. Oh, got it. Okay. Okay, so I mentioned the. Hacking Your Mind. PBS series we did previously a review summary of, of that four part series. Mm-hmm. and I’ll put a link to that in the in the description so you can go watch that.

It is fascinating little playlist if you’d like. A little scary . So some examples of how this gets used that came up. There’s a lot of research that’s been used and done. And I, I will, I’ll refer you to the Wikipedia article about confirmation bias because it is by far the most lengthy and thorough treatment that I found.

I will, there are three that I’ll, that’ll make sure I put in the, in the links, the so wording of question. Such as surveys, so, oh yeah. There’s, we’re good, right? We’re good, right? You’re, I think we think it was flat far. Yeah. We’re good. I think we recognized, you know, we’ve all, you know, been asked to take a survey and, and you’ve probably seen questions that were, they were worded so that it was, it was hard to give an.

An answer, a negative answer. Yeah. Or, or in the case of, you know, this confirmation bias, they can ask a question in the positive or negative. Like if, if you’re, if you’re pro something, okay. They’re, they’re gonna get more positive responses by asking a question that is in the positive. Like, you believe, do you believe this?

Or do you like, Rather than, do you dislike this? Oh, well, well, that makes sense because the dislike is disagreement with what you believe. Right. And so it, it comes out you know, they, so they can control, they or highly, highly influence the result of a survey by the words, the way the, the question is worded.

We’re that out one. Oh, don’t, unless you can give us a five. Don’t. Yeah, we don’t wanna talk to you. We don’t wanna talk to you. Just what can we do? Yeah. and we, we’ve already mentioned that, you know, the, in the, in our discussion here, two people shown the same exact piece of evidence, like the little children in the, in the, you know, showing the picture come to opposite conclusions based on and as young as three.

And going back to the questions for just a minute, there’s another. , this kind of brings in other cognitive biases, but there’s this primacy, there is a primacy effect or something that you’ve pre, previously seen. So they can, they can set up a question by GI telling you a little story and saying, you know, this, this happened and this other thing happened, and then ask a question and.

because of the little story they told you. It, it influences your, your answer to the question. Absolutely. Sure. Again, I, I don’t, we’ll go too long. If I, if I go into a detailed explanation here with the Wikipedia article gave a couple great examples go that, cuz that is pretty cool. Great examples. So how do we avoid this?

How do we avoid this? Well slow down. That’s, that’s almost, that’s the answer for almost all the cognitive biases because they are. What’s the word? Unconscious, semi-conscious. They’re, they’re, we don’t think, you know, we’re, we’re on autopilot. That’s, we’re on autopilot when we’re using these, and we’re, we’re not, it’s, it’s not fully conscious that we, that we do these things and I’m so good at that.

You, you could tell you’re all good at it. I love slowing down. We’re all good at it, at, at, at being on autopilot because that’s, that’s how we survived. But the, so the intending to slow down, you know, recognizing, okay, this is, this is important. This is. of thinking a little slower and, and spending a little more time.

That’s, that’s basically, you know, it, it’s a choice. And then looking at the other side of things, so a, a question that was suggested was, mm-hmm. , what would I see if I was wrong? . Now that’s a pretty cool question. I think so that is probably one of the better questions that we’ve ever Yeah, because it’s not, it’s not a situation where someone else is, is challenging us or judging us.

Right. That, that causes us to become defensive. Right. We’re asking ourselves, right. What would it be? What would it look like? What would I see here if I, if I was wrong? So it’s, it’s very close to question your assumptions. Okay. That’s, that’s kind of a Okay. A. Okay. Just great tool in our tool belt of mental models.

Actually, that would fall under the, the questionnaire assumptions is a, is a mental model. It’s a, I don’t think so. That little short framework of how we can make better choices. . Cool. So what else to to, to just refer back to, because we’re doing this series based on the work that a guy named Buster Benson did, which he, I think he did an amazing job.

Yeah. And, and he d he identified three, he calls ’em conundrums that we face, which is, there’s too much inform. because there’s too much information we, we have to filter. Mm-hmm. then there’s not enough meaning, meaning mm-hmm. , which means after we’ve filtered and, and ignored a lot of information, then, then we don’t have enough to.

enough information to really derive full meaning. And so then we fill in the gaps with stuff. We make up , this happens. And, and then the last thing is all that , the last thing is not enough time. So Oh, yes, we’re, that’s true. We’ve gotta move right? In life. We’ve, we’ve gotta move. We don’t have, we literally don’t have time to think through everyth.

thoroughly. Yeah. And, and that’s where the autopilot Yeah. Evolved. So we, we do have these situations where we, we need to act quickly to duck or run in the case of danger. But in this, this cognitive bias actually falls in that category of not enough time. And then, then he, he further broke it down into different strategies and the strategy that this one applies to.

is that we protect our existing beliefs. So that’s a way that we save time. It’s, oh yeah, it’s, it’s a time saver. So really simple stuff, really far reaching and I hope you’ve enjoyed this and we look forward to seeing you Quite fascinating, as usual. Yes. Good job. Thanks. This was fun. Bye-bye. Bye-bye.

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