“How many interviews have you attended?” I asked “Two,” he answered. “How did it go?” I asked, “I did not get the job?” He said.” What do you think could be the reason?” I asked “They had it reserved for someone else as always.” He answered casually “Do you know the person?” I asked “No” he responded. This was a discussion with a fresh graduate. He believed he was not getting a job because he did not know anyone in the industry he wanted to work in. After a long discussion though he mentioned he was once told he was attaching too many documents while applying for jobs. Looking at his curriculum vitae I could also tell it was scanty and not impressive to any employer.
He had however chosen to hang on to the thought of; he was not the problem the employers were. This discussion happened during a career guidance session. He was actually the session with the hope of getting a contact for internship instead of getting ideas on how to position himself for employment.
This explains how biased and subjective we can be in our judgment. I come across this phenomenon very often. Last week some training participants were discussing why they were not growing in their career. The majority sighted unsupportive managers and poor working culture as the main reasons. Some had even resigned to the fact that they were not born leaders or did not have the right personality. In extending this discussion I asked, “Are there people who are growing in that culture?” “Yes,” they answered. I then asked; 1) What are they doing differently? 2)Why were they preferred for the positions? 3)Do they have a certain personality 4) What behaviors or practices do they demonstrate? At the end of the discussion they concluded. “We now feel challenged; we had not looked at it from that angle?
Most of the time we look at the obstacles to our growth and foreshadow the opportunities and options available. Looking at obstacles and threats exonerates us from taking responsibility and putting in the work. We look for all the facts that support our view; that is the power of confirmation Bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs.
Human decision making and information processing is often biased because people are limited to interpreting information from their own viewpoint. People show confirmation bias is to protect their self-esteem. People like to feel good about themselves, and discovering that a belief that they highly value is incorrect makes people feel bad about themselves. Therefore, people will seek information that supports their existing beliefs. Information that conflicts with the decision may cause discomfort and is therefore ignored or given little consideration.
It is not that people are incapable of generating arguments that are counter to their beliefs but, rather, people are not motivated or willing to do so. Confirmation bias may lead people to hold strongly to false beliefs or to give more weight to information that supports their beliefs than is warranted by evidence. People may be overconfident in their beliefs because they have accumulated evidence to support them, when in reality much evidence refuting their beliefs was overlooked or ignored, evidence which, if considered, would lead to less confidence in one’s beliefs. These factors may lead to risky decision making and lead people to overlook warning signs and other important information.
Confirmation bias affects your day to day decisions such as why someone did not pick your calls to who you should or should not associate with. To avoid making wrong decisions or remaining stuck due to this bias;
- Expand your thinking – Embrace new ideas and beliefs. Expanding your way of thinking doesn’t mean you have to agree or disagree with someone or something; you will be able to think more critically about the world around you, and the world needs more deep thinkers!
- Check your ego – When you try to eliminate confirmation bias, it is guaranteed that your ego will be put to the test. Remember you do not know everything, and even when you are 100 years old, you will still have lessons to learn about life. Listen twice as much as you speak and you will be well on your way to expanding your mind. Keep information channels open.
- Think for yourself – This is also a much-needed quality in today’s world. The internet is full of information, social media is full of opinions, and we are so busy that we end up quoting someone else’s thoughts without making sure we agree with what we are quoting. Think for yourself. Do not depend solely on what people are telling you; find out for yourself.
- Embrace disagreements – You can learn a lot from someone who disagrees with you. Arguing and fighting are never good ways to expand your way of thinking, but debate is a great way to exercise your brain “muscles.”
- Ask good questions – Be your own ‘devil’s advocate’. if you want to expand your mind, you must not only ask good questions, but better questions. A good question is “what do you believe about this topic?”. A better question is “why do you believe this?” or “what led you to believe this?”. Asking questions that lead to deeper thought and conversation will help you to broaden your way of thinking.
“Human beings are poor examiners subject to superstition, bias, prejudice and a profound tendency to see what they want to see rather than what is really there. Knowing that one may be subject to bias is one thing, being able to correct it is another”