Confirmation

No, this isn’t about the Catholic Sacrament

This is about Public Enemy Number One when it comes to honest discussions: Confirmation Bias.

Put (very) simply, CB is our natural impulse to seek out and accept information that confirms what we already believe.

“What’s so bad about that?” you might ask. “I’m entitled to my own opinion.”

Yes, sunshine, you are. But if you’re trying to have an honest discussion, especially with someone who feels differently about a subject, then you really should put on your big kid pants and admit you’re human. And so is the person with whom you’re trying to converse. Sticking to your opinion, just because it’s your opinion, is a form of weakness, not a show of strength.

CB is what keeps us from loving our neighbor when we disagree with them. CB is what keeps us from growing in faith when our faith is challenged. CB is what causes walls and tribalism – it was necessary when we were a tribal culture.

But seriously, we’ve come a long way since then. In fact, Jesus himself told us to reject our Confirmation Bias.

“I’ve read the Gospels. There’s no mention of Confirmation Bias.”

Oh, yes there is, sunshine! You’ve read it, too. It’s in Matthew 7 and Luke 6. It’s exactly what Jesus was talking about when he said, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Cognitive Bias is the beam in thine own eye. Jesus knew this 2000 years ago and it was a central teaching of his. “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”

The plank is CB. It’s your own lack of ability to see past your own bias. But people read this passage and, because we’re stupid, see it as a weapon we can throw at other people. “Hey, bud – take the plank out of your own eye before you talk about mine!” Think of the irony there. Using the gentle words of Jesus to attack someone else.

Which, by the way, is a form of Blind-Spot Bias.

Jesus’ admonition isn’t leveled at thy brother, it’s leveled at thee. “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” He’s saying make the effort to listen with an unbiased mind – especially when you disagree.

And, yes, I’m biased toward the King James Version. I love the old language. For the record, I know it’s not the “best” version. Hey, “To thine own self be true.”

 

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