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The Bearded Skeptic offers educated & insulated skepticism in a world full of BS. Content and opinions provided by the skeducator, William T. Kendal.

Confirmation Bias: Dialog's Double-edged Sword

Philosophy

Philosophical thoughts, claims and predictions with a skeptical twist from the Bearded Skeptic.

Confirmation Bias: Dialog's Double-edged Sword

Taylor Kendal

As a skeptic, I've become keenly aware of the proliferation of confirmation bias in all aspects of modern society. Whether through writing, recall, dialog, or dictation, confirmation bias seems to be an ever-present cognitive inevitability. While it's true that distinction between the broader concept and related nuanced effects (e.g. attitude polarization or selective recall) is important, for the sake of this post, let's just work from a shared understanding of a fairly inclusive definition: 

A tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs and/or preconceptions.

Need a little more to chew on? The following video offers a fairly simple way to make sense of this otherwise complex idea through a social lens we're all a bit more familiar with.

Provided this understanding of confirmation bias, most would argue that it's problematic (if not downright malicious), and that we would all benefit from learning how to drown out this cognitive clog, but I'm uncomfortable with this categorical stance.  First of all, it's extremely difficult to perceive our own biases in the moment they take hold of us, which makes acting on them rather complicated. Second, I'm not sure that we can further productive dialog without unwavering convictions (even if occasionally irrationally grounded). Does the progression of our social fabric rely on confirmation bias? 

It's extremely easy to imagine scenarios in which confirmation bias leads to negative outcomes, but  perhaps that in itself is bias, and only based on preconceptions. I'm far from settled on this topic, but I'm beginning to think that the mere awareness of this double-edged cognitive sword is much more important than trying to fight its inevitable effects. 

Be confident, firm, unwavering, relentless, and resolute, but know that the convictions and beliefs you tirelessly defend are never entirely your own.
— Me...it just looked better as a quote :)

Looking for another flavor of confirmation bias? Play along with the following video and let me know how your brain does with numeric patterns.