Confirmation bias thinking

Our world is full of “information” and it is not always easy to make sense of it all.

When making an opinion about something, you should try and base that opinion on a wide variety of information so that you see both; facts that support your pre existing views and also see facts that do not support your pre existing views. This would help you to get a “balanced” view of the facts on which to base your opinion on.

Unfortunately, in reality, when trying to make an opinion on something, your brain can have the tendency to only look at information that supports its pre existing views and not look at information that does not support its pre existing views. When your brain thinks in this way, you will only see information that already agrees with your pre-existing views and this could lead to you making incorrect opinions as you never see information that challenges your pre-existing views.

Psychologists have named this type of stupid thinking as “confirmation bias” thinking.
Here is a short example of confirmation bias thinking:

Sarah believes that cigarette smoking is not harmful to one’s health. A friend tells her that she is wrong, so Sarah decides to check things by doing a search on the internet about the health risks of smoking. The first four web search results have topics that suggest that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer. The fifth search result however, seems to suggest that cigarette smoking is harmless and that the dangers of smoking are a conspiracy theory. Due to confirmation bias thinking happening in her brain, without even realising it, Sarah does not check the first four results, as they do not “agree” with her beliefs. She only clicks the fifth result, as this agrees with what she already thinks is correct, and then thinks to herself, “cigarette smoking and lung cancer is just a hoax”.

As the above example shows, when your brain does confirmation bias thinking, it can make you see the world in a very distorted way, and falsely give you an impression that your view is the only correct view.

What makes confirmation bias thinking very dangerous in modern times is that social media companies often try to show you only information that they think you like to see and hide information that they think you are not interested in. In effect, the social media companies try to do confirmation bias thinking for you! This is very dangerous as you may not even realise that you are seeing information that only agrees with you. This can even affect democracy as political parties pay social media companies to show their advertisements only to people who agree with that party’s views. These social media users will therefore end up seeing only advertisements from the party they support and not see advertisements from other parties with alternate views. This will then make them blindly trust the political party they support.

To minimise the chances of your brain doing confirmation bias type of stupid thinking, try and overcome the resistance your brain will have to looking at information that does not agree with you. Try, once in a while, to actively look at or listen to media that are known to have opinions that differ from your own opinions. This will broaden your information base and help you to get a true view of the world around you.