I tried to come up with something that I could write focused on my typical interest in geeky and gamer topics. My mind keeps drifting to a mental health theme instead. However, this theme is still present in our geeky world, it's just different in that this is a theme that shows up in everyday life with just as much frequency as it does in our great culture. The concept that I want to focus on for this blog entry is that of Confirmation Biases.
A confirmation bias is a cognitive experience wherein we seek out information, only seem to recall information, or interpret information that backs up our pre-existing belief pattern. This could mean that you only seek out information that backs up your perspective, or it could mean that you interpret ambiguous information as being tied to your perspective. From where I sit, it's a dangerous phenomenon.
First off, I believe that we all struggle with this to some degree. However, I think when people really struggle with confirmation biases, they put themselves in a precarious place. They cause problems because they can lead someone into being overly confident (about something that may not be true) even in the face of contrary information or they can lead to people making poor decisions based on inaccurate information. Of particular concern, to me, is that once someone starts down this path, it becomes more and more difficult to step away. The stakes are constantly increasing as a person becomes more and more polarized in their particular viewpoint.
It's believed that confirmation biases result out of our brains attempts to simplify complicated concepts, or that it may be related to our brains propensity to focus on one topic at a time (so not entertaining alternatives as a result). From a mental health standpoint, this relates to an old explanation of how we get stuck in problematic thinking.
I come from the school of thought that many of the diagnoses that we deal with in counseling are related to behaviors that at one point existed to protect us, but now are getting in the way. So anxiety, or fear of a future that hasn't happened yet, is in some ways protective. It gets us thinking about problems before they've arrived. It's just sometimes these fears become completely crippling, and we become paralyzed in living our life. Or these fears may be based on things that are extremely unlikely to happen, but we get paralyzed nonetheless. Regardless, it has a noble purpose, but it really isn't helping us at all. Confirmation biases do this too. They help us to feel comfortable and safe. They help us to support our belief system, when others are trying to get us to think differently. However, they get in the way and lead us to really negative patterns of behavior. From my perspective, when I assess my own biases, I have to ask myself who else this impacts, and if my perspective is in any way harming anyone else (or at it's highest degree might it have the potential to infringe on someone else). If it does at all, then I need to reevaluate what I'm doing.
Please consider how this relates to things as simple as disagreeing about which console you should purchase and play on, or which Avenger ought to survive the next Infinity War movie. Please also consider more deeply how confirmation biases may be impacting your life and the lives of others on a more global scale. And before I go, if you're saying to yourself, "yeah, this is totally what's wrong with ________," then please turn that mirror back on yourself for a moment and see if you've got a little of your own bias showing too.