Overcoming Confirmation Bias: When Everyone is Saying “Yes”, Listen for the “No”

Belief in self is a key characteristic of the successful entrepreneur, as is having faith in an idea for a new product or service. If you believe in things that are not true, simply because you want them to be or because others tell you they are, you’ll be moving along a certain path to failure. Known as confirmation bias, to some degree we are all vulnerable to the tendency to assign more weight to evidence that confirms what we already believe to be true.

To put it simply: Your opinions are the result of years of paying attention to information which confirmed what you believed while ignoring information which challenged your preconceived notions. (YouAreNotSoSmart.com)

For a business owner or entrepreneur, and in life, this tendency toward bias can be extremely dangerous. Yet, in our current highly charged, highly partisan and contentious environment, it seems as if our entire culture is founded in confirmation bias. For the most cherished beliefs about things like climate change or vaccines or political parties or building wealth, instead of changing their minds in the face of challenging evidence or compelling counterarguments, most people resist belief change.

Not only do most of us fight changing our beliefs for some things and not others but, if we successfully deflect such attacks, our challenged beliefs tend to grow stronger – regardless of the evidence.

Is it Us or Our Culture?

Of course, it would be nice to blame this tendency toward irrationality on an outside source, like the culture in general. However, research into the subject is telling us that, for nearly everyone, when you look for information about something, you look through the lens of your preconceptions about the subject. When this happens, you will keep on searching until you find what fits with what you already think or believe.

If you want to overcome confirmation bias and free your mind, you need to learn to search for and process information in new ways.

  • Don’t fear new ideas – There is no need to be afraid of new ideas or someone else’s opinions. Expanding your way of thinking doesn’t mean you must agree or disagree with someone or something; instead, it means you will be able to think more critically about the world around you.
  • Move past your ego – It will try to stop you! While it’s good to know who you are, your ego can really clog the thinking process. When you try to eliminate confirmation bias, you can be sure that your ego will resist. When this happens, remember you do not know everything, and you will still have lessons to learn about life. Practice humility when it comes to listening to others.
  • Do your own thinking – Opinions are plentiful today, in all types of media. Often, 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. If you have to do some thorough research, do it – you will be much better off for it.

In business and in life, perform your due diligence and market research. Seek the expertise of others who have nothing invested in the outcome, but who can give you objective information and advice. Above all, overcoming confirmation bias requires that you set your opinions aside and seek facts, instead.

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