I’m going to talk to you about Dave.
Following the decadence that is this time of year Dave has been considering doing something to get in better shape in the new year.
As part of his new health and fitness drive Dave wants to lose a few pounds. So he makes a decision to try a diet that one of his work colleagues is doing.
He checks progress on the scales every morning. If he has lost weight he pats himself on the back and considers the diet a success. If he has gained weight he writes it off as a normal fluctuation and forgets about it.
For weeks he lives under the illusion that the diet is working. He tells himself ‘it must be the fact that he’s started exercising and that all the muscle he’s developed is offsetting the weight loss’. Because he knows muscle weighs more than fat.
More weeks pass and even though his weight remains constant. He’s not seeing any changes to his body but he tells himself he just needs to double down on what he’s doing.
More time passes. Dave still hasn’t seen any movement on the scales and his clothes are still just as tight.
‘It must be more muscle growth and water retention’ he tells himself.
Sound familiar? I hope not!
What’s happened is that Dave has fallen victim of a confirmation bias. Albeit a harmless one, but it has been costly to him as he’s wasted a lot of time.
The confirmation bias is the mother of all misconceptions. it’s the tendency to interpret new information so it becomes compatible with our existing beliefs.
We filter out any new information that contradicts our existing views disconfirming evidence. It is a dangerous practice; ceasing to acknowledge that facts exist because they are ignored!
Yet, we do exactly that! What human beings are best at is interpreting new information so our prior conclusions remain intact. Hiding the presence of disconfirming evidence.
It is incumbent on you to fight the confirmation bias. So whenever observations contradict your theory take them seriously do not merely brush them aside! Lean into them, test your beliefs.
And do it sooner rather than later as the brain does a very good job of forgetting disconfirming evidence after a short time!
The more certain you judge your belief to be, the more active you should be in looking for contradictions!