“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau
We all have core values and beliefs that heavily influence how we perceive our environments. One of the ways this influence occurs is through something called the confirmation bias.
The confirmation bias is our tendency to confirm what we already believe. When we hold strong beliefs about ourselves, others, or the world at large, we notice, remember, and place a lot of importance on evidence that supports those beliefs. At the same time, however, we also place very little importance on, don’t remember, or overlook altogether evidence that does NOT support our beliefs. As a result, we see exactly what we expect to see.
Because of the confirmation bias, we can be so certain of the truth of our perceptions that it closes us off to the possibility that we might either be wrong or, at the very least, not getting a complete picture of our situation. Therefore, it is essential that we regularly question our assumptions and perceptions and recognize the possibility that, because of how the confirmation bias is operating on our beliefs, we might be missing critical information, information that might very well alter the ways we choose to respond to other people or circumstances.
Today, notice those times when you are certain that you are right, when you’re sure you have a completely accurate picture of reality. Once you recognize those times, ask yourself a few questions: 1) Am I seeing what I expect to see? 2) Does what I’m seeing confirm what I already believe to be true? 3) Is there any information that I’m missing? 4) How do others see or perceive this situation? The same way I do? 5) Is it possible to perceive the situation differently?
Asking and answering these questions will help you fight the confirmation bias by opening your mind up to the possibility that more information might exist and, therefore, a more thorough and accurate understanding of the situation is possible. And with this more comprehensive and correct comprehension of your circumstances, you will be able to act and interact in ways that are productive and helpful for yourself and for those you care about.