Thinking is hard. It’s why most people judge and jump to conclusions fast. To make more rational decisions, I’ve written about cognitive biases many times before, brain bugs I call them, and explained how we must become aware of them to be able to combat them.
Though there are many cognitive biases, in my opinion there is one that reigns supreme in our day to day interactions with people: confirmation bias.
The human tendency to gather and interpret new information in a biased way to confirm pre-existing beliefs is called confirmation bias. It’s extremely easy to fall to confirmation bias. And it’s harder to question our own core assumptions. We both cloud our judgment and are driven to make irrational decisions when we confirm our existing beliefs and cling to them.
There are many examples of confirmation bias around you on a day to day basis. For example, imagine that a person believes left-handed people are more creative than right-handed people. Whenever this person encounters a person that is both left-handed and creative, they place greater importance on this “evidence” that supports what they already believe.
With that said, how can we overcome confirmation bias?
Here are three useful methods:
We tend to see issues in terms of black and white, but the truth is somewhere in between; a shade of gray. The essence of thinking gray is this: don’t form an opinion about an important matter until you’ve heard all the relevant facts and arguments.
Thinking gray is powerful because it forces you to be patient. By delaying decision making, you avoid confirmation bias since you haven’t yet made a decision to confirm it!
A second mental model that can help you avoid confirmation bias is taking the Devil’s Advocate position. Playing the devil’s advocate means taking up an opposite side of an argument, even if its one you don’t agree with.
An effective approach to using this mental model is to deliberately include people in a decision making process who are known to hold opposing points of views. Doing so will help everyone involved more easily see the strength in other perspectives and force you to craft a more compelling argument in favor of what you believe.
Bypass the filter bubble
The filter bubble refers an to algorithmic bias that skews or limits the information an individual user sees on the internet. The bias is caused by the weighted algorithms that search engines, social media sites and marketers use to personalize user experience (UX). For example, social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram filter the information and media you see based on what you like; personalization is the filter.
The problem with filters is you only see what you like, not what you don’t; basically, filters impede perspective.
Bottom line: You are what you take in. Take in a variety of perspectives to help you become a super thinker and avoid confirmation bias.