Confirmation Bias Holds us Back: How to Prevent it

In today’s divided world, empathy is an essential quality to have in order to navigate the madness. But how often are we really listening to someone else when they speak, and how often are we just waiting for our turn to talk? 

On a recent episode of the Psychology of Entrepreneurship, I spoke with Laura Peterson, otherwise known as “Laptop Laura” on her podcasts. Laura, among many other things, is a former high school Psychology teacher. One of the topics we touched on was the concept of confirmation bias and how it shapes how we process information.

 

What is Confirmation Bias?

Confirmation bias is defined as the tendency to interpret new evidence and information as confirmation of our already existing beliefs. For example, someone who is very right-leaning politically may only read or watch news sources with a right slanted bias, and visa-versa for the other side.

In simple terms, we are always on a quest to prove ourselves right. But in this tunnel vision, we lose the ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, to learn from other people’s journeys. Why are we so obsessed with being right?

 

We Search for the Negatives

So since we always want to be right, we’re almost always expecting to be proven wrong. Living on the edge of our soapbox, so to speak, leaves us vulnerable to falling hard at negative feedback. As Laura says “We are programmed to pay more attention to negatives than positives.” 

We could get 300 positive online reviews for our business in a year-long period, and we would focus all our energy on the one negative. We would memorize it and feel the stab of rejection at every word, every time we repeated them in our mind. Why? Why do we do this to ourselves?

 

Sharing your journey

At one point in our conversation, Laura mentioned that the best way to remain authentic was to share your journey. Not just the destination and the success you found there, but all the bumps and bruises along the way. It got me thinking that maybe by sharing our journey, we could also learn to see past our confirmation bias. 

Part of sharing the hard or difficult times in your life, particularly if you’re sharing them online or through a podcast format, is the usually overwhelming positive responses from people in all different walks of life. 

 

Being able to relate to others, on a purely human basis, can be a powerful insight into how similar we all are. 

 

Seek out Stories of Journey's Different than your own

Instead of looking for anecdotes to prove our own viewpoints right, maybe being bombarded with stories that vary from our own, sometimes drastically, could help shake us out of our bubble. 

Look, everything is going to have a bias of some sort. It’s almost impossible to avoid. But the only way to stop digging yourself a hole of your making, is to be aware of your own bias and actively seek out conversation or knowledge from people outside of that box of thinking. 

It’s a scary thing to pursue others that think differently than we do or live their lives differently. We usually seek out those with similar beliefs and lives, which in itself has many benefits, I’m sure. But it’s ultimately just cementing our confirmation bias.

There’s nothing wrong with having strong beliefs and convictions, in fact, the opposite is true. However, we won’t grow as entrepreneurs, or as people, without stepping outside our comfort zone and looking at the world around us through different eyes. After all, you can’t grow when you’re comfortable.

 

The Psychology of Entrepreneurship

For more of the conversation with Laura, check out Volume 10 of the Psychology of Entrepreneurship hosted by Ronsley Vaz with special guest Laura Peterson.

Author: Ronsley Vaz

Ronsley is the founder & chief day dreamer at AMPLIFY. He is an author, speaker & serial entrepreneur.

He has a Masters’ degree in Software Engineering and an MBA in Psychology and Leadership. He is known as the creator of We Are Podcast – the first Podcasting Conference in the Southern Hemisphere, and the host of The Bond Appetit Podcast and Should I Start a Podcast. He has an audience of over 3 million in 133 countries.

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