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  • Writer's pictureShandy Welch

Be Aware of Confirmation Bias

Updated: Nov 1, 2022

This is fascinating… I have always associated confirmation bias (CB) with a specific issue or topic which supports my point of view. Here is what I learned in an interview with Melina Palmer on Negotiate Anything. Melina is a behavioral economist, which means she studies how the brain makes decisions and thus affects our conversations and perspective.

CB is at play all of the time, in every action, and in every relationship and interaction we have.

Our brains have two distinct parts, the conscious and the subconscious. Studies have shown that throughout the day between 95 and 99.999% of our thoughts and actions are processed on the subconscious level! It is amazing we are still standing up!

Think about walking, when you were a baby, the concentration needed to take a few steps or kick a ball was tremendous, now, as an adult, you walk down the street with little to no focus on your feet or balancing. This is your subconscious at work, all of those elements continue to be accounted for but have shifted to the subconscious. It is not until you are running through the woods navigating roots and rocks that you move into conscious walking.

Our cognition is similar, when stakes are high or emotions are at play our subconscious kicks in and tries to align thoughts and perceptions to confirm what we believe to be true, this is all done at an unconscious level.

Your subconscious is on a continual quest to confirm what you want to be true. If you begin an interaction with a colleague with the thought that they are difficult, irresponsible, and arrogant, you will perceive just that. Your brain will automatically filter those attributes that confirm your bias and those elements will overshadow all others.

What you choose to highlight or focus upon, your brain will indeed, perceive as true.

CB shows up in a positive light as well, if you view the other person or content as thought-provoking, positive, and exciting, you will naturally experience and focus on ad experience those qualities.

Melina notes that our subconscious brains process 11 million pieces of information per second whereas our conscious brain processes 40 pieces per second, while a bit terrifying, it certainly shows that there is a lot of filtering taking place.

Given that statistic, is important to take an active (conscious) role in filtering. Imagine how much data you are not accounting for.

Admitting to and exploring your biases does not mean you have to change your stance, it only means you have remained open and curious about possibilities beyond your biases. Becoming aware of how much we may misinterpret, not consider or appreciate is half the battle.

So how do you do this?

  • Simply become aware, curious, and accountable to the idea that there may be more to consider.

  • Prior to acting or making a bold statement, ask yourself the same question from a different perspective and try to prove yourself wrong. A short game of mind gym will prompt deeper insights and ideas.

  • Access alternative sources that may challenge or contradict your stance.

  • Ask another question and listen to learn rather than respond.

My Challenge to You:

  • Take a moment to walk very intentionally, notice your breath, the sound of your shoes hitting the ground, the feel of the air on your skin, and the sounds around you. Be mindful of how much you normally would have disregarded. (for all of you Positive Intelligent junkies… these are your PQ reps!)

  • When thinking about the Ukrainian conflict, be mindful of how you are processing this information and the CB that are at play. Are you reacting? Judging? Filtering information to prove you are “right”? What does it feel like to take the “other side”?

  • How do you think empathy influences confirmation bias?

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