It’s time to check your facts.
Every single one of us suffers from a condition known as confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is our tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms our preexisting beliefs.
If you believe left-handed individuals are more creative than right-handed folks, the next time you meet a designer who happens to be left-handed you’ll think, Ah-ha! See? My theory is correct!
Hence, you confirm your bias.
If you believe people who wear glasses are smarter than those who do not, then anytime a person wearing spectacles expresses a decent enough idea, you immediately perceive it as “brilliant.”
Hence, it confirms your bias.
When you’re confronted with ambiguous evidence you’ll often “see” it through the lens of your pre-existing belief system. Suppose an individual shares a bright idea, but this person isn’t sporting glasses. You immediately wonder if they might be wearing contacts or recently had Lasik surgery. Probably contacts, you conclude, with nary a stitch of supporting evidence. Hence, you confirm your bias.
What’s worse? When confronted with information that flies in the face of your beliefs, you’ll either dismiss it or double down on your own beliefs.
Not wearing contacts? No Lasik surgery? Hmmm, well… was it really that great an idea? you wonder. Cuz people with glasses really are smarter.
When challenged by your non-glasses wearing friends one night at the bar, you site the famous University of Edinburgh study. Your friends gently remind you that one study proposing only a possible correlation between glasses and reaction time with no conclusive links does not a theory make. Still, you shake your head, causing your specs to slip low on the bridge of your nose. Nope… too late, you are convinced!
Unfortunately, your confirmation biases prevent you from “seeing” situations objectively which can lead to poorer choices, greater prejudice, less ideation and more myopic thinking.
While it’s difficult to combat this natural tendency, just knowing about confirmation bias and being more self-aware of your own limiting beliefs is a fantastic foot forward.
A few quick tips to reduce your own bias:
- Find three examples that prove yourself “wrong” or at least not 100% right.
- Spend more time asking questions instead of defending your own answers.
- Remind your Ego that “seeing” an issue from another person’s perspective is not a threat, it’s an opportunity.
- Before you make your next big decision ask three people [who don’t report to you], What am I missing?
- Remind yourself the next time you see the “nerd” on television wearing glasses… it’s a trite and biased prop choice.