Our current administration must cast the tie-breaking vote between the two senior class presidential nominees. Tristan is someone I can’t stand. As we discuss pros and cons for each person, I fire off every infraction and insult I’ve witnessed Tristan commit. When we discuss the other nominee, Helene, I scour my memory for every positive thing I can think of to recommend her.
The Confirmation Bias – which causes you to notice only evidence that fits your theory – urges you to prove yourself right, but often at the expense of making the best decision.
In our last post, you learned ways to spot and balance out negative thinking. This time, you’ll learn how to challenge reasoning that’s hell-bent on a certain conclusion. Cherry-picking facts is problematic because you may miss important evidence needed to make fair, wise decisions. It’s like looking at the sky through a telescope. While your tiny view is real, it’s far from the whole picture.
As a developing Artistic Optimist, your next challenge is to go from lawyer to juror! As a lawyer, you presented evidence to prove your point. Now as a juror, you strive to make the most fair decision based on all relevant information. This means considering all facts, not just the ones you instinctively like.
How can you overcome the Confirmation Bias to make good decisions?
- Summon the Scale of Justice. On a piece of paper, draw two columns or a scale and label one side, “My Instinctive Facts” and the other side, “Further Consideration Facts.” Write the question you’re considering at the top, such as, “Who should be the next senior class president, Tristan or Helene?”
- Gather the evidence. First, write down, “My Instinctive Facts,” which are the facts you immediately think of. These are towards a specific conclusion. Then, come up with, “Further Consideration Facts” that you didn’t automatically think of but that are also true, pertinent, and that don’t support the Confirmation Bias conclusion. For instance, “Tristan has served in student government for the past 5 years.”
- Be Blind Justice. Now review all of the facts and ask yourself, “What is the most fair, wise decision in light of all evidence?” At the bottom of the paper, write your decision along with your top supporting reason(s). For instance, “Since Tristan has been in student government for the past 5 years and each of those years he fulfilled all campaign promises, he is likely to be the most effective president. Therefore, I vote for Tristan.”
Now that you know how to rationalize with the Confirmation Bias, you’ll be ready to make artistic decisions that are fair and lead to the best outcomes. Practice being a just juror in your daily life, cultivate your open-minded listening skills, and notice how your decision-making process and results evolve!