If you don’t understand this, you’ll never understand the world
I’ve got the key to understanding the world.
It’s called “confirmation bias”.
If you want to understand the world and understand people, then you need to understand confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias is the way our minds actively screen information for evidence that supports our existing world views.
So if I believe that the Beatles were talentless hacks, when I listen to their music I’m going to here awkward harmonies and lyrics that are drug-induced rambles at best. My subconscious mind is screening the information my conscious mind receives.
But on the other hand, if I already thought the Beatles were divinely inspired rock gods, then I will hear complex harmonic layering and mind-expanding commentry on the human condition.
And so you can have the effect that two people can listen to the exact same album, consider the exact same piece of evidence, and draw radically different conclusions. Depending on their pre-existing beliefs, they can have completely different experiences.
This is a humanity in a nut shell.
We are in constant conflict, and to make matters worse, we just can’t understand why our enemies think the way they do. They’ve seen the evidence. Why don’t they draw the same conclusions?
They heard the Beatle’s White album. What’s wrong with them?
Confirmation bias is the reason why people draw different conclusions. And it’s also the reason why you also appear bat-shit crazy to your enemies.
It’s why some people look at Donald Trump and see a ego-driven orang’utan, and some people see a freedom loving rebel.
And it’s why some people can look at Greta Thunberg and see Joan of Arc reincarnated, and some people see a girl being manipulated by the media.
Confirmation bias acts as a filter on reality, and we all have different filters.
And sure, at this point you’re probably saying, “Yes, but my enemies filters are wrong, and they distort their reality more than mine do.”
Possibly. We all think that. Even if we acknowledge our own biases (and most people can’t), we still think we are less deluded than others.
We all think that we can perceive truth through the forest of random facts, through the mist of thought-bubble media machines, and through the veils of our own cognitive biases.
But, statistically speaking, you’re probably kidding yourself.
Now I’m not saying you have no hope of perceiving the truth and thinking clearly. I definitely do think you can do that. But it’s more work than you think it is.
It’s a truck load of work.
You need to sit down and bring all of your deductive faculties to the table. You need to be disciplined with logic, rigorous with reason.
Not only that, you need to have a good hard look at yourself so you know where your biases are and where you leap from reason to faith.
You need to know that you do have times when you leap from reason to faith (we all do, get over it). You need to learn when you’re biases are more liable to hold sway, and you need to watch for when those contexts occur.
Yep. As I said. Lots of work.
My great wish for humanity is that we can all recognise just how much sway confirmation bias has over our faculties.
I genuinely think it would just help us get along a lot better.
But if this blog does nothing more than stop you from yelling at strangers on the internet, then I’ll have done my job.
(He says, confirming his pre-existing belief that he is a man with a lot to offer the world.)