Confirmation Bias: why we think the way we think

We are too fast to jump into conclusions, aren’t we? 

The privilege of assumption has got its firm hold on us. A friend saw our messages but didn’t reply. We immediately think he/she might be annoyed with us. Fail two times. We make ourselves believe ten times that it’s because of our sheer unluck. 

Have you ever thought about why you think the way you think? 

It may be because of confirmation bias. 

Confirmation bias refers to believing things in such a way that they sync with the thoughts you already believe in. It influences our thoughts and then, our actions directly. 

Confirmation bias leads to destructive thinking patterns.
biased thinking leads to faulty judgments

Suppose, your boss criticizes you for the work you did. And after many days, you are told to quit. In that case, we automatically tend to think the once-told criticism was the sole reason for being fired. We make ourselves believe that could be the only reason.

Now suppose the boss appreciates you for your work and raises your pay. You will accept it with a smile and pledge to work on correcting yourself and do better.

Now it may seem a common thing. Not until the same bias leads to wrong decisions and misinterpretation. One disregards the evidence and facts in order to hold on to the existing beliefs. 

It’s similar to writing a long-form article with a conclusion first. The matter of the body gets slowly evolved to accommodate the end result/discussion.

How to avoid this bias?

Make use of the Six Thinking Hats:

The six thinking hats is a technique by Edward de Bono, a psychologist. It is a guide for thinking effectively. When there is a problem, some people look at the positive side and don’t bother to look at the drawbacks. Whereas, other people focus on the drawbacks, but don’t get satisfied with the positives. 

Sadly, the world cannot be perceived in one single way. You cannot be slow and steady always, as the idiom suggests. Sometimes, you need to pick up speed and use your presence of mind. And, vice versa.

Six thinking hats is a psychological technique to think constructively.
adopt the six thining hats technique to think effectively

Here are six thinking hats by Edward, one for every quality we should pursue:

White: When you wear a white hat, you should just focus on the available information (past and present). Know what the problem is exactly.

Red: Wear the red hat and let your gut instincts surface. Focus on the emotional aspects of the problem. Consider how the problem is altering your personal values. 

Black: Wear this hat to see the drawbacks of the situation. Ponder over the consequences of the idea. This hat is mischievous because it makes your problem tough! 

Yellow: Wear this hat and look at the brighter side. Match them with the drawbacks and see how the positives benefit you. 

Green: Wear this hat and start thinking creatively. Develop ideas to sort out the issue.

Blue: It’s the bigger picture. Come to a constructive conclusion

Avoid the urge to frame an opinion immediately:

Our brains revolve around making thousands of hypotheses every day. Worse, it takes the help of every nerve and vein in the body to make the thesis seem true. 

Before framing a half-boiled opinion, gather all relevant information. Approach the problem with a third person mindset, i.e. think as if you neither caused the issue nor facing it. This gives you time to see the issue from a general, yet possibly better view. The information hiding behind the bushes start to surface. It saves you from making faulty decisions due to impatience. 

Avoid the urge to frame opinions immediately when presented with raw information.
avoid the urge to frame an opinion immediately

Develop your mind to be curious:

Research shows that neither education nor intelligence paves the way for better judgments. Even if you provide enough facts to support your thesis, some may not come out of their normal zone to accept a thought. 

The human mind is selective in nature. We pick what our mind prefers. Repetitive thinking can make a mere thought seem true. 

So what makes one open to all information without bias?

Curiosity.

We need to tame ourselves to crave curiosity. Instead of make-believing ourselves, we need to develop the mindset of asking why

Don’t fall into decision fatigue:

Roy F. Baumeister coined the term “decision fatigue”. It refers to overt stress due to constantly making decisions. 

The need to make decisions excessively, may distort our views and blur our perspectives. It brings us farther from the constructive side of life and leads to bias. 

Minimize the need to make decisions. Pay utmost attention to high-stakes decisions. Develop a routine for low-stakes decisions so you don’t have to plan every day. Don’t have too many choices, since it leads to confusion. 

Decision fatigue makes one stressed due to constantly maing choices. It leads to poor decision-making.
making decisions is a part and parcel of life. make sure you make the best ones!

Confirmation bias may push us into the abyss. It restricts our brain from thinking beyond the information it is offered. 

How do you deal with biases? 

“When a man finds a conclusion agreeable, he accepts it without argument, but when he finds it disagreeable, he will bring against it all the forces of logic and reason.”

Thucydides 

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