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Motivate Yourself 113: Confirmation Bias

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Terry Pratchet once wrote:

"Be careful. People like to be told what they already know. Remember that.
They get uncomfortable when you tell them new things. New things…well, new things aren’t what they expect.
They like to know that, say, a dog will bite a man. That is what dogs do. They don’t want to know that man bites a dog, because the world is not supposed to happen like that. In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds…Not news but olds, telling people that what they think they already know is true."

This is the basis of what's called confirmation bias.
A psychological habit that filters reality and creates a new one that is based upon our already existing beliefs.
For example. if you spend your whole life thinking that you're stupid then the only thing you notice are your mistakes, if you believe that you're unattractive then that's all you'll see when you look in the mirror.
It's important to know that we do this because it's not just a habit that anxious people have. It's totally across the board.
It is a peculiar human trait to look for evidence of our beliefs, even if our beliefs are incorrect. I think to be 'the best we can be' we need to tackle this.
We aren't born with any beliefs at all, we have to learn them and if what we learnt was in fact wrong then we need to unlearn that belief and learn a new one. Which means we have to prevent confirmation bias as much as possible by deliberately looking for evidence that contradicts our beliefs.
I'm regularly reminded of an experiment in the late 70's in which participants were given a story to read, all about a week in the life of an imaginary woman named Jane.
Throughout her week, Jane did many different things but behaved in ways that showed her to be both an introverted, shy character and an extroverted confident character.
A few days later the participants came back in and were asked one of 2 questions.
Either, "Would Jane make a good librarian?" or "Would Jane make a good estate agent?"
The participants that were asked the librarian question would go through Jane's week in their mind and find examples of her being introverted and say "Yes".
Similarly the estate agent group went through Jane's week in their mind and looked for evidence of the opposite and of course they found it and said "Yes, she's an extrovert and would make a good estate agent".
Afterwards the participants were asked if they thought Jane would be any good at the opposite job, and the participants said "No".
They'd already formed an opinion about Jane and evidence to the contrary had been deleted from their memories.
That's confirmation bias and understanding that we do this is vital. It helps us to learn not just about ourselves but also about our friends and family.
If all you do is complain that your partner is uncaring and selfish, then you'll delete the times when they tell you that they love you or give you an unexpected hug, and that's not just unfair to them. It's also unfair to you.
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Episode List

Episode 138: Keeping Up With The Joneses
Episode 137: The Likeable You
Episode 136: Why It's OK To Be A Loser
Episode 135: The Psychology Of Extremism
Episode 134: Are You A Lobster?
Episode 133: Critical Thinking
Episode 132: There Is Nothing Either Good Or Bad
Episode 131: The For And Against Of Imagination
Episode 130: Loneliness & Social Networks
Episode 129: Letting Go Of The Past
Episode 128: What Is Love?
Episode 127: Procrastination
Ep. 126: Who Were You Before The World Changed You?
Episode 125: Stop Saying "Sorry"
Episode 124: Emotional Contagion
Episode 123: Patience
Episode 122: Building On Your Foundations
Episode 121: Dealing With The Critics
Episode 120: Being Assertive. Just Say No!
Episode 119: Inactivity
Episode 118: Social Functioning & Evolution
Episode 117: Unleash Your Inner Superhero
Episode 116: Goals, Values and Priorities
Episode 115: 10 Tips To A Happier Life
Episode 114: Lies And Confabulation
Episode 113: Confirmation Bias
Episode 112: Are You An Imposter?
Episode 111: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger
Episode 110: Are New Years Resolutions a good idea?
Episode 109: The African Violet Queen Of Milwaukee
Episode 108: Reframing
Episode 107: Spiders And Behaviourism
Episode 106: Practise Makes Perfect
Episode 105: Fear Of Flying
Episode 100 - 104: Happiness
Episode 99: Body Image And The Media
Episode 98: Evolution and Adaptation
Episode 97: Reflections And Regrets.
Episode 96: Dealing With Fear
Episode 95: Confidence
Episode 94: Enthusiasm
Episode 93: Tips To Relieve Christmas Stress
Episode 92: Dealing With Change
Episode 87 - 91: Self Esteem
Episode 86: Correlation Does Not Imply Causation
Episode 85: The Importance Of Being Lazy
Episode 84: Elephant Chains
Episode 83: Eating Bananas And Setting Goals
Episode 82: Ignoring The Media And Listening To Music
Episode 81: Awakening The Instincts
Episode 80: The Fine Line Between Love And Hate
Episode 79: The Best Medicine
Episode 78: A New Start
Episode 77: Time Distortion
Episode 76: Making Decisions
Episode 75: What's In A Name?
Episode 74: Pushing Ourselves Further
Episode 73: Conformity
Episode 72: Purpose
Episode 71: Perspective
Episode 70: Expectation
Episode 69: The Mind / Body Link
Episode 68: Overcoming Shyness
Episode 67: Mood Boosting
Episode 66: Sabotaging your goals
Episode 65: Self Talk
Episode 64: Money Makes The World Go Round
Episode 63: First Impressions Count
Episode 62: False Belief
Episode 61: Absolutes
Episode 60: The Psychology of feeling calm
Episode 59: Belief
Episode 58: Anchoring Emotions
Episode 57: Negativity and Perspective
Episode 56: Health And Happiness
Episode 55: Imagination vs Reality
Episode 54: Change