How you form your beliefs and opinions? Why real and correct facts and figures do not change your mind? If you are like most people, you probably like to believe that your beliefs and choices are the results of years of experience and objective analysis of your available information. The reality is that all of us are susceptible to a tricky problem known as confirmation bias. While we wish to imagine that our beliefs are rational, logical, and objective, the very fact is that our ideas are often supported listening to the knowledge that upholds our ideas and ignoring the information that challenges our existing beliefs. However, this does not hold true many of the time.
What Is a Confirmation Bias?
Confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias that favors information that confirms previously existing beliefs or biases. Whenever we support our perception or thought process, we tend to believe it more, whether it is right or wrong. For example, imagine that a cat crosses your path while you are going to the office. According to the Indians believes it was considered a bad fortune for the rest of the day. Whenever this person encounters a cat crossing his/her way, they place greater importance on this "evidence" supporting their already existing belief. This individual might even seek facts that further backs up this belief and thoughts while discounting examples that do not support this idea. Confirmation biases impact how people process and believe, but they also influence how people interpret and recall information. For example, people who support or oppose a particular issue or believe will not only seek information that supports their beliefs, and they will also interpret news stories in a way that relates to their existing ideas and remember things in a way that also reinforces these attitudes.
Consider the debate over the Banning of Chinese products. If you support the ban on Chinese products and seek out news stories and opinion pieces that reaffirm Chinese and product use, it tends to support the ban. When there are stories about boycott Chinese products in the media, you interpret them to support your existing beliefs. If you, on the other hand, is adamantly opposed to banning Chinese products. You seek out news sources that support and align with your position, and when you come across news stories about the impact of the ban on the Indian economy, you interpret them to support your current point of view.
The Impact of Confirmation Biases
Several experiments conducted during the 1960s demonstrated that people tend to seek information that confirms their existing beliefs. Unfortunately, this type of bias can prevent us from looking at situations impartially, influence the decisions we make, and lead to poor or wrong choices and decisions. For example, people tend to seek information and posts that support their beliefs and ideas on social media platforms. They get confident about their perceptions and believes and consider them as true and real. However, it leads to the ignorance of another face of the topic or situations that might be real. Like during an election season, people tend to seek positive information that paints their favored candidates in a good light while looking for information that casts the opposing candidate negatively. By not seeking out facts and ignoring the other side of the coin, interpreting information in a way that only supports their existing beliefs, and only remembering details that uphold these beliefs, people often miss important information that may have otherwise influenced their decision on which candidate to support.
Now think what exactly you are facing on social media platforms these days are not relevant to these? Different social media users handle, promote, and post facts, news, and material, supporting their beliefs and thought processes. When people with the same mindset saw such facts, they became more biased on their beliefs and decisions. It also influences the people who did not have any thoughts or opinions about that particular event or situation. Moreover, as a result of these, sometimes, even facts and figures cannot change the human mind. The more you find facts and proof holding your idea and decision true, the more you will tend to fall for confirmation bias and make poor decisions in your life. I hope now you can better relate why fake news gets much attention, why unnecessary and irrelevant posts get viral, what makes people believe in their standpoints in spite of having a wrong interpretation of facts and situation.
Be cognizant of the tendency towards confirmation bias. It is always lurking, and the lazier we are, the more likely for it to appear. Know that how you act will influence results. Therefore, try to look at things in context. Know that there are other perspectives and try to see things from as many angles as possible. It does not hurt to have others involved in the process. They might bring confirmation bias of their own, of course, but those biases are probably different than yours. The more people you can use as soundboards test your decisions' accuracy, the more they are going to be reasonable and reflective of the real environment. Seek a devil's advocate. Get more than just your perspective and see things more clearly. —The Hawk Features
*SME IIT Jodhpur