Confirmation Bias Explained

See, I knew I was right all along!

We all do it!

Once a person believes a thing, it’s very difficult to change the mind even when the facts or proof shows otherwise!

Many people hold strong beliefs based on flimsy background information and are reluctant to change their minds even when this new and emerging information shows that they are wrong.

Your beliefs and opinions, views or hunches are the result of a lifetime of gathering information, reinforcing and building that belief with all sorts of scrappy bits of evidence while specifically ignoring other pieces of information that shows your belief is faulty or incorrect!

Confirmation bias can cause problems for journalists or newspaper story writers in their zest for the truth they may ignore certain evidence which suggests they are incorrect or to the contrary which would bring them back to the drawing board with that story!

Additionally within scientific and psychological laboratories where tests are being carried out are always backed up by others and conducted many times over in order to avoid confirmation bias where the outcome can be influenced either deliberately or unintentionally or in other words unconsciously.

Conspiracy theories would not hold together without confirmation bias.

Often within the world of research psychology, experimental psychologists have proven that under controlled laboratory experiments chosen subjects working on an experiment or hypothesis usually end up working to prove that they are right and that their research is on track or that they have successfully eliminated the negatives stripping back the data and all variables to show the final result where they are right, here is the proof, when in fact all experiments should be conducted to prove that it is wrong.

By setting out to prove it is wrong you will arrive at a more accurate and successful outcome of proving it is right.

Any new evidence both for and against tends to extract the positive for as confirmation and proof to some extent of one’s theory or belief.

Here is a simple example of confirmation bias that most people do all the time, especially if you feel a little insecure or easily paranoid.

This is particularly prevalent amongst youngsters and teenagers on the internet within social media.

You have a friend or a relationship with someone who is to some extent of value and worth emotionally and psychologically to you and of course you don’t admit or reveal it to anyone, maybe not even to yourself and you have sent text messages, e-mails or more answer machine messages on your telephone and you haven’t received a response.

Each individual has a certain amount of time in which each they expect to receive a response, some expect the response in hours whilst others a day or two and others more easy-going may expect a response within a week. This response time depends on each individual’s, emotional psychological and needy make up etc.

Once this specific waiting time has lapsed, you start to cross examine, question and internally chat to yourself as to why your friend has not responded YET!

You then start to think slightly negatively as to one or two reasons why they haven’t got back to yet and again this depth of thinking and frequency of thought depends on each person’s make up and need for that response.

No two people will be the same on this but the same process takes place within most of us which is we start to jump and leap to conclusions in some sort of psychic or intuitive manner that your friend is possibly now avoiding you or maybe they don’t like you.

At this early stage you start to rationalise your irrational thoughts as to why they’re not getting back to you and to justify it with reasons weighed up against the negative reasons such as they don’t like you or they are avoiding you and don’t really care or feel differently to how you feel!

This becomes slightly concerning to say the least because now you’re engaging in negative and unpleasant thoughts about your good friend and the reality is they probably don’t deserve it, in fact you might even start thinking evil or sinister thoughts about getting them back, revenge or planning on ignoring them and letting them feel the same thing and you start to wonder if they are really are playing mind games and do they really know how you’re actually feeling, they must know and that’s why they’re doing it and now the more you feel that the more you think it, then within that specific amount of time in which you expect them to contact you has passed then this becomes confirmation that your views or hunches and opinions or even fears and paranoia is true, as each little thing builds you form a new opinion on the worst case scenario or even feared outcome!

For some, this is very dangerous and can result in mind games and tit-for-tat or hurt towards the other.

Then all of a sudden out of nowhere you receive contact and you scan that form of contact looking for signs that you are were right or wrong and that they do or don’t care when in fact they’re absolutely oblivious to any of this going on.

Their response and actions is normal and might be miniscule which leads you to start to judge them which leads to further confirmation that they don’t care and that the feelings or views about you is totally unmatched and you become angry towards them and so on.

And of course you’ve got it completely wrong!

All this is stemming from a little seed, building momentum like a snowball rolling down a hill. Even the most rational calm and secure people do this to some extent especially when we need confirmation that they do care, that they do respect you and that they are sensitive to your feelings and needs whatever the relationship.

If example you fear elements of the above to be true then without realising it you will look confirmation or indications that you are right in the period that they don’t reply to you when you expect it.

You are then in effect digging an emotional hole for yourself and ultimately end up feeling unloved and unwanted as you possibly need to which is something people with low self-esteem and low self-worth do all the time within relationships!

Subsequently they pull their loved ones down to the same toxic and negative pit of suspicion and distrust or paranoia that they end up in.

Teenagers, both male and female do this a lot but mainly females are seriously affected by this way of thinking especially when they lose a likes on Facebook or receive a thumbs down against a picture or a selfie and so on.

Many teenagers have committed suicide because of the misinterpretations are misunderstandings on social media based on singular reactions from other which in effect attracts more negativity and unwanted comments possibly pertaining to bullying which again becomes confirmation that they really are unwanted or ugly or have certain facial and body issues commented upon and judged because they gave that put to others without realising it.

When a little seed turns into a surge of toxic comments online and leads a person into depression and suicide because that person took each little comment and put it all together to build beliefs and meanings which results in self harm or self destruction.

We are sometimes motivated by wishful thinking and confirmation of the worst all because we gather information although possibly faulty and then confirm a view that leads us to believe a certain thing is true when in fact it is not.

Once we have established and developed a belief we scan for any other information that is similar or related to it and we then block or reject other information that tells us differently.

This really hasn’t got anything to do with intelligence or stupidity because we are creatures that need to gather and develop beliefs. Memes!

We don’t view situations and circumstances objectively instead we specifically extract bits and pieces of information or data that makes it either feel good or bad about ourselves or a thing which includes confirmation of her own prejudices and assumptions.

Confirmation bias runs very high in people who suffer from social anxiety with a heightened sense of vigilance where they are easily threatened by the activities of the surrounding world and each action confirms their belief.

The same with paranoid people, each look or stare, titter, whisper, giggle is because of the way you look or behave.

People who have issues with being blanked or ignored, people who are needy and need lots of attention will be constantly vigilant of others’ behaviour indicating that they aren’t wanted, needed or liked and each neutral or normal action and behaviour may be misinterpreted as being confirmation that, that particular action or behaviour means you are right in your view of what they think and feel about you and so the list is endless.

Let’s not get onto religion!

Another word for confirmation bias is confirmatory bias which is a tendency to scan and be vigilant for information which leads to the interpretation of that information in such a way that it establishes and confirms your own preconceptions that a view either negative or positive is right when in fact it’s possibly wrong or at least carries faults and discrepancies.

The next time you start worrying or thinking negatively about an outcome or a result, try considering the alternatives and exploring your past assumptions at how many times you were wrong which then became a confirmation that the view you then held was faulty and that such and such a situation or person really didn’t mean you any harm after all.

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