Confirmation bias. It’s a fancy term. But it just means only listening to people who confirm your beliefs. You surround yourself with views that confirm yours, and stay away from views that don’t.
Confirmation bias is common and a powerful force. Because most people like the feeling they get when others share in their interests and beliefs — our brains literally produce chemicals that make us feel better when people agree with us.
Conversely, confirmation bias is also common because people really don’t like the feeling they get when one disagrees. Call them what you’d like: frustrating, stupid, stubborn, ignorant. We just don’t like it when people are “wrong” about something we believe to be right.
So people tend to develop groups with people who think like them. Especially on issues of religion and politics.
Mom always used to say, “Birds of the same feather flock together.”
Flocking together makes us feel better. Litterally.
Silo is a popular word today to describe groups of people living in a culture-container of confirmation bias.
You have the progressive left wingers living in their silo with all the other left wingers.
You have the Fox News evangelical right wingers living in their silo with all the right wingers.
You have Bernie socialist types that are young and idealistic and are non-confirmists.
You have the self righteous people who “aren’t into politics.”
And everyone in your silo is in general agreement. They think alike. They all agree. And they can talk about the stupid people in those other silos.
Regardless of the silo, confirmation bias leads to groupthink.
It happens in cults.
Everyone just hears the same crap over and over and over. The big one today is the erroneous view that Muslims want to take over the world. Of course, they don’t. Three million live here, work hard, pay their taxes, raise their families. Five-thousand of them serve in our armed forces.
But confirmation bias is greatly damaging our country. As Christian and a Republican (in that order) I see it everywhere amongst my own people.
They are Republicans, first and foremost. So anything a Democrat does or says, is bad or wrong. They hate President Obama with a passion that’s hard for me to understand. I don’t hate Democrats. I might disagree with some of their political views, but I don’t hate them. These Republicans believe that whatever Trump tweets is gospel truth. And the news media is now fake. The FBI and CIA and their leaders are liars. It’s the Democrats’ fault he couldn’t get his health care bill passed.
Trump parrots those words and millions of Americans just nod and parrot his words as gospel truth.
Democrats aren’t much different in their animosity toward Republicans.
But I believe Republicans can be worse. This is hard, as a Republican, to admit. But hear me out. Republicans are overwhelmingly more religious, and especially in evangelical and fundamentalist churches.
And if you want to be informed, religious institutions, I hate to say it, can hold you back.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Ph.D. wrote recently in Psychology Today. He asked the question, “Why are religious people generally less intelligent?”
In short, the answer boils down to, you guessed it, confirmation bias.
Religious people are generally anti-science. So to a very large extent, they are less logical and read less scientific literature.
Church people often they get their views on politics, science, faith, parenting, from their silo. Their echo chamber. Year after year after year they are fed the same thing told the same thing, are warned against those who think differently.
Their brains don’t grow.
This can also be true in conservative Mosques or Synagogues. Confirmation bias and living in one silo is not just a Christian thing.
Nonreligious people, it’s been my experience, aren’t as afraid of opposing views. They are more open to discussion. They don’t have a Holy Book, to argue from.
The reality of confirmation bias is most dangerous today because it’s slowly becoming dumber.
Our brains expand, grow, only when we are being challenged. That’s why schools make kids take math. That’s why we have education that includes literature and science and history and art.
Because we become smarter as our minds are stretched. The whole idea behind a liberal education was based on very conclusive research that shows that the smartest people are those exposed to many arts and sciences and cultures.
Being liberal is the opposite of being narrow-minded.
But those living in a world of confirmation bias are not growing anymore.
Their minds are being narrowed as they hunker down into their echo chambers
They follow media that tells them what to think.
Thank God I was forced to read Social Contract theory in college.
People might think I’m being a snob or an elitist by suggesting such a thing as reading Social Contract theory!
Everybody knows a “narrow-minded” grandparent or uncle or family friend that has never traveled or doesn’t have a computer. All these people “know” is what they’ve heard, and they have no access to opposing points of view.
But today even savvy Facebook users can be just as narrow as an old uncle. Because those that use the internet are stuck in their beliefs because their Facebooks feeds know what they read and keep feeding them that data — confirmation bias, once again.
Republicans today are suspicious. Christians Republicans are the most suspicious.
They’re suspicious of progressives.
They are suspicious of Muslims.
They won’t read the Koran. It’s easier to have someone confirm your bias that Islam is “as violent religion.”
They won’t read social contract theory of Hobbes and Locke and Kant and Rousseau. Instead, they parrot Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.
I’m a Republican and a Christian. But I refuse to be told what to think by anyone, right or left.
I’ve never switched parties. One of my political heros did. His name was Winston Churchill. He grew up in a conservative home. Then became strong liberal. Then later a conservative again.
I’m not afraid to be called a liberal because I don’t tow the Republican party line on everything.
On Fox News, they mostly tell you what to think.
Being told what to think is so much easier than being told how to think.
Gahandi: It is far easier to hate your enemy than to understand his viewpoint.
My loyalty is not toward my political party.
My loyalty is not toward my religious affiliation.
My loyalty is toward truth.
Let’s all stay out of silos.
A note on “Freewriting.”
Every Friday, I set my timer on my iPhone for 15 or 20 minutes. Then I start writing. I don’t stop. I write whatever pops into my mind. After 15 minutes, I go back and quickly correct all the blatant typos. Then I publish it on Paulosophia.
I started “freewriting” in the early 1990’s because I had read this short article called “Freewriting.” I was a horrible writer back then, with the most severe writers’ block. The article said you have to write WITHOUT STOPPING. For a fixed period of time. Even if you have to write the same word over and over again. Over time, you get better, and more confident.
Writing becomes as easy as talking.
I can’t count how many freewriting exercises I’ve done over the years. Thousands for sure. I still do them almost daily. My kids know them well. I hope you will, too.