Confirmation bias, straight ahead!
Saint Paul, MN
Be careful what you wish for…
the saying goes…
you just might get it.
Our brains have an excellent ability to find examples in the world to confirm our theories and prove that we’re right… even about our selves.
This is confirmation bias— the phenomenon that new information confirms what we already ‘know.’
If you’re warned that someone is a liar —say, someone you meet at a party— you’ll become wary of their stories and disbelieving of the details.
If you’re instead primed with the low-down that this person has lead a very interesting life… you’ll find their stories fascinating!
If the media reports opinion pieces over and over that a certain politician is a racist, well, by golly you can find “evidence” of that, too.
And… perhaps worst of all… if you publicly give yourself an identity, you’ll conform your behavior to that identity.
To help organize our brainz, humans find the neat little boxes with specific labels on them; we’ll unpack those behaviors and act them out. We want to remain consistent and we want others to see us as consistent with their understanding of ourselves and the world.
Because uncertainty is confusing and who wants that?
Once this happens, you’ll remain consistent even if it’s not necessarily in your best interest. If someone first asks if you care about river pollution, for example, most of us will agree that
yes, I am concerned about river pollution!
Well, did you know that donating $20 to the River Coalition will help keep your river clean?
Oh, anything you can give makes a difference, how about just $5?
Ok, now that might not be the best example; clean rivers are generally in your best interest!
But having committed to the importance of clean rivers, it can be hard to not give in a situation like this.
I hope you can see how a sense of consistency can be used as a tactic against you (or as a tactic for your own cause).
And how that consistency stems from giving yourself an identity —a label— that you then feel the need to live up to.
And perhaps worst of all… once you have an identity to maintain… you have a hard time accepting new information… changing your mind… or admitting that you might be wrong.
Because, you know, we might all be wrong.
PS. Hey while I have you — I’ll be travelling to Puerto Rico next weeko! Check out my travels on Instaglam/@robodioxide and if you know of anything fun to do — drop a line!