The confirmation bias and seeing only what you want to see.

Being in a world where there is conflicting information can make it a difficult job to make sense of things, and because of this we have a need to filter out information so we don't overload our heads with conflicting thoughts causing confusion. Our need to make sense of things on the other hand can also be a hindrance when we go too far the other end by fixating on one idea and only excepting information supporting this idea whilst ignoring everything else even though it may discredit your original decision for a good reason... this is what we call the confirmation bias. 

The confirmation bias can be thought of as a self fulfilling prophecy where because you expect something to turn out in a particular fashion you end up interpreting all signs confirming your expectations correct whilst disregarding evidence that proves those same expectations invalid. In extreme cases some may reinterpret contrary evidence as further evidence to their expectation/argument. For example when an acquaintance who you've made your mind up as someone who is generally unpleasant gives you an unexpected compliment which they genuinely mean well by, you may interpret it as sarcasm or a subtle dig at you, either way you perceive this compliment negatively because that's what you expect from this person no matter how genuine it came across.

What it really comes down to is expectations, and your expectations can shape your perceptions thus confirming your expectations, your a trapped in a loop if you will. Robert Anston speaks about this in his book Prometheus Rising , in his own words he writes ''what the thinker thinks, the prover proves''. He also gives an example in his book that if the thinker thinks that the sun moves around the Earth then the prover will organize perceptions to fit that thought; if the thinker then changed its mind then the prover will reorganize all evidence to again fit that perception.

A couple of examples where the confirmation bias can be recognised are..

Stereotypes: Stereotypes is what the confirmation bias is in essence, as a type of individual has certain expectations set upon them and anything someone from this group does that seemingly relates to those expectations confirms the stereotype that is set upon them, even if it is out of character for them.

The media: The media can often be used to propagate the confirmation bias by using selective images, sound bites or carefully chosen stories to further confirm an idea which is already believed by many people. It is believed some ideas are fabricated to further other agenda's.

Self image: Your self image is something that can be reinforced by your experiences. If you see yourself as someone who is well natured of course you will do good natured things accordingly and while this happens people may take notice and act positively towards you and even tell you how good natured you are thus strengthening your self image as a good natured person.

Study by Peter Wason
A british psychologist named Peter Wason who coined the term confirmation bias in the 1960's conducted a psychology experiment to test his theory where he gave a group of people a triplet set of numbers ''2-4-6''. The task was to identify the rule that applied to the three numbers and for the subjects to find the rule. Wason instructed that they may construct other triplet sets of numbers to test out their assumptions regarding the first triplet; for every triple set of numbers the experimenter would tell them whether or not it followed the rule. The subjects formed a hypothesis that the rule was a sequence of even numbers and tried numbers that followed this rule such as ''4-8-10'', ''6-8-12'', ''20-22-24'' which the experimenters confirmed to them that each of these numbers obeyed the rule, as each triplet was given a positive confirmation the subjects felt more confident about their hypothesis that the rule was even numbers, not long after a few more tries they were convinced that they found they rule they were looking for.

It turned out the subjects were incorrect and had not discovered the rule to the original sequence, the rule was simply increasing numbers. Almost all the subjects that were involved in this experiment formed a similar hypothesis and formed number sequences that proved their hypothesis while very few asked questions or tried to form number sequences that may disprove their hypothesis. They only confirmed what they believed was true. 

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1 comment:

  1. What do you say on Pygmalion effect? Does confirmation bias most work in managerial communication?