Confirmation bias

I have been reading about confirmation bias recently, and what I have learnt is fascinating. Confirmation bias is described as: “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values.” For example, if you believe that barefoot shoeing is best, you will always seek out information which backs up your belief. Whereas if you believe traditional shoeing is best you will seek out information that backs up your belief. In some instances, this can even be the same article, viewed from a different angle!

Confirmation bias makes it more difficult for us to have an open and receptive view towards new ideas and ways of doing things. Warren Buffett sums it up best by saying: “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.”

So how do we prevent ourselves from doing this? How do we remain open-minded and flexible so that we treat new ideas with a genuinely balanced view, without distorting them with our own perceptions?

Firstly, be aware of this tendency. The moment we become of things, we are less likely to fall down that particular hole. If you know you do this, try and overcome it. For example, read an article from a different publication to your usual ones. This will give you a whole different viewpoint.

Secondly, remember your ego wants to be right. This can be dangerous. It is a far wiser person who can admit that they were wrong. It is a sign of maturity and wisdom to say, I used to believe in this, but now I have looked at the facts I now believe in this. Changing your mind based on new information is not being inconsistent, it is being open-minded.

Thirdly, ask questions. Both of yourself and others. Look for answers in different places, engage in debate with different people, ope your mind to new possibility.

By enabling our critical thinking powers we open ourselves up to overwhelming possibilities. Who knows what you might discover?

It’s okay to change your mind

This sounds quite obvious, but it can be surprisingly tricky. You can end up feeling pigeon holed into a box. People perceive you as something, as if you can your position on that, it can phase them. But it is okay to change your mind. It is okay to change your opinion on something based on new information. This is not being inconsistent. It is being open and accepting.

Some of you may have followed the brilliant Dr David Marlin on social media. If you haven’t take a look – click here! He is one of the leading authorities on the safe cooling of horses in the world. He is a scientist, everything that he says is backed up by genuine research. Yet, there are always people arguing with him about it! They are so entrenched in their own beliefs, their own ways of doing things that they can’t back down.

20 years we did things differently. They may have been best practice based on the information we had then, but we know more now, the world has moved on. Clinging to our old ways of doing things because we don’t want to admit that they were wrong, is foolish. We only learn by making mistakes. We can hold our hands up and say, “I used to believe that, but now I know differently.” This is not being inconsistent, or changeable. This is growth.

Some of the practices that were around 20 years ago are debatable to say the least. But they were considered the norm. Being able to change your mind, to grow as person, to have new views about things based on new information, is to be wise, to be open, to be flexible. To admit that we were wrong, that we didn’t know everything, is to be wise, to be expansive.

Don’t let other people limit your growth. If they say, “but you always did it like that.” Just smile, and say “so I did.” You don’t need to justify your changing perceptions to anybody else. You can grow and change constantly throughout your life, and the person who you ultimately have to live with, is yourself.