prose&const logo Code and musings by Darshak Parikh
 

Metaconfirmation Bias

What is confirmation bias?

Imagine that you recently had a debate with a friend. You went on for hours about how nobody in your city obeys traffic rules. You presented elaborate examples and cited a dozen studies to prove your point. And in the end, you agreed to disagree.

Next time you drive, you see these rule breakers everywhere. You notice people jumping signals, not wearing helmets, overspeeding and driving on the wrong side.

Why does this happen?

One popular explanation by the believers in the Law of Attraction is that the universe conspires to give you what you think about the most. You manifest what you believe.

Psychology disagrees. It’s not the universe conspiring this. It’s the thing between your ears.

Our brain looks at what we have been thinking about and labels it as #relevant. Then, of all the information our senses feed it, it highlights what strikes to it as #relevant. It will ignore the smooth drive you’ve had for the last 30 minutes and light up when it sees your neighbour without the seatbelt.

This is a continuous process. Every day, we mark new things as #relevant and take out old things. Some things stay forever. At any point, there is a finite set of topics tagged with the #relevant label.

Psychologists have an accurate term for this: confirmation bias. We are biased in the information we take in, in that we pay extra attention to events that confirm our existing beliefs.

Why do we have this?

Because it is efficient.

We take in a galaxy-load of information through our senses during our waking hours. Processing it all would drive us crazy in a matter of minutes. We don’t want that. So our brains have evolved to cut out the cruft and only look at things it considers #relevant. This saves us a lot of time and effort, and keeps us sane.

Confirmation bias is a solution. Except when it becomes the problem.

What’s wrong with it?

We have opinions.

Thanks to our friend, the confirmation bias, we filter all the information we receive and keep what confirms our opinions, thus reinforcing them.

The problem is other people. Those imbecile beings have their opinions (which are obviously wrong, as we confirmed in the last paragraph). Then these obviously wrong opinions are further strengthened by their confirmation biases, making them more full of themselves.

Then we get on the internet and fight one another. Or even offline. We lose friends and make enemies, and that’s not even the worst case. Confirmation bias has a huge role to play in all extremism, violence, racism, sexism, xenophobia and other general douchebaggery that humans exhibit. It all starts because other people are obviously wrong, and they deserve to suffer and die.

What’s with the title then?

If you have read about confirmation bias before, then you likely skipped to this section. Wise decision, because all I said above was what you already know: that the bias makes us all assholes.

When I say metaconfirmation bias, I address the people who already realize that confirmation bias fucks us all up. Which is anyone who made it till this point.

You know that people act in unreasonable ways because they have fallen victim to the dreaded bias. They form a distorted view of the world, their country, a politician, an agenda, a sports team, an anything. And their biased brains fuel it till they become woke zombies who are hard to deal with.

Next time you meet this victim, and they share their views on capitalism, you know they are acting under influence and are not to be taken seriously. They did not look at the picture from a neutral viewpoint, so they’re obviously wrong.

Wait, where have I heard that before?

Epilogue

I am apolitical and do not take part in political debates. I like to think that I am above it all, since these lowly conflicts are not what we live for.

When everybody in a debate calms down and agrees that different opinions exist, I step in. Then I smugly declare, mostly only to myself, that this is all a result of the diabolic force we now know the name of.

In doing so, I leave out on important information I need to have as a citizen. Thanks to my biased opinion that woke people are always biased, I let my confirmation bias confirm confirmation bias.

Hence the title.