Are You Smarter Than Your Peers?

–Read This

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.

Hugs,

AmyK

AmyK Hutchens
AmyK Hutchenshttp://www.amyk.com/blog/
A former executive of a billion-dollar global consumer products company and awarded the Vistage UK, International Speaker of the Year, AmyK is a dynamic, energetic catalyst for driving businesses forward faster. With 100+ presentations per year, AmyK travels the globe sharing with executives, influencers and go-getters HOW to confidently & competently navigate their toughest conversations without saying something they regret, giving their power away or damaging their relationships. With humor, insight and experience she engages and inspires audiences to master the The Power of Profitable Conversations. Learn more about AmyK at www.amyk.com. Follow AmyK on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter at @AmyKHutchens.
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Jonathan Solomon

Thank you for a very insightful post Amyk – I liked your reasoning.

What you shared is so true in many cultures and where “grandmother always knew best”, reigns. It is also sadly true when working with different organizations, particularly in ‘humanitarian programs’, — oh yes, Peers always knew best even though they have not even stepped out of their own hometown.

Now after three decades of international work, I can truthfully answer your title question, “Yes, I am smarter than my peers, more specifically, in terms of practicality, timeliness, tactically and diplomatically.”

I am also reminded of Akiroq Brost’s quote, “Your mind constantly seeks proof that will confirm your beliefs. If you have negative beliefs, your mind will seek to prove those negative thoughts. If you have positive beliefs, your minds will seek to prove those positive thoughts. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of our beliefs.”

“People tend to accept information that confirms their existing beliefs and feelings, and reject information that contradicts them. This is called “motivated reasoning,” and it means that providing people with corrective information often does not work and may even strengthen their original beliefs. This also means that when people receive new information, their existing beliefs and feelings may have more influence over whether they believe or reject this information than rational reasoning.” Rachel Hilary Brown

Mary Schaefer

Hi AmyK! Very timely post. I’ve been actively questioning my confirmation bias the last few months. At first I was troubled when I noted how often I’m wrong. Now I’m starting to feel a bit liberated. I don’t have to “know” so much. Thank you for taking us through this thought process to spark our thinking.

Maureen Nowicki
Maureen Nowicki

Hi Amy, I mentioned outside the Cafe that your points were solid and I must say that asking three non-reporting people about what you are missing is such a great strategy. In fact, asking three people with varying roles (skin on the game), backgrounds, and skill-sets seems to be the ideal to alleviate confirmation bias. I could mention a few other favourite some I do and some I do not – but, I would just like to say thank you for your writing effort today.

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