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I_heart_Truth's avatar

What do you think about our tendency toward confirmation bias?

Asked by I_heart_Truth (38points) January 30th, 2011

Although the human mind likes to believe that it is “of course”
dedicated to truth, in reality, what it really seeks is confirmation
of what it already believes. The ego is innately prideful and does
not welcome the revelation that much of its beliefs are merely
perceptual illusions….. (Quote by D. Hawkins,one of my mentors)
I reluctantly find this to be valid. What say some of you?

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11 Answers

talljasperman's avatar

the belief that the mind is a perceptual illusion might be an Illusion too… or else we might be in the Matrix or a holographic universe.

I_heart_Truth's avatar

That part about ‘belief as illusion’ is what the quote seems to be about for me.
Okay, I look at it like this: If a person has truly transcended certain belief systems,
then that person would know the truth by virtue of identity with it-they wouldn’t need a belief about it anymore. They wouldn’t be hypothesizing, surmising, or hanging onto what they merely think is true. They would know, radically, that calling most beliefs illusions is in fact correct. I’ve hardly reached a high degree of sophistication with the idea, but a wee nip of honesty reveals to me, alas! I often seek an outlet or confirmation for what I believe;
leaving in the dust any genuine listening to/trying to understand others.

kess's avatar

The one who finds Truth will find it to be himself….

marinelife's avatar

You are glimpsing the truth.

crisw's avatar

I don’t know that I put much stock in the quote. I don’t think we have confirmation bias because “the ego is innately prideful.” I think we have it for several reasons that make behavioral sense, such as it simply being an easy way to think. I don’t think we need to bring nebulous concepts like “ego pride” into it.

By the way, who, exactly, is “D. Hawkins”? Looking up the quote on Google, I got only this question and a truly bizarre article that did not mention his name.

fireside's avatar

I think the tendency towards confirmation bias is probably more related to a matter of limited time or capacity than ego or pride. People take a series of events with a seemingly similar basis and assume that they can determine the pattern from there without taking the time to formulate and run falsification tests to determine whether or not their confirmations are displaying a pattern or if there is a different or larger pattern that can be determined.

Having said that, I do think that some people are very rigid and prefer confirmation bias over the process of experimentation because they don’t want alternative theories to disrupt their comfort zone.

But I don’t think this is more prevalent than simply accepting a perceived pattern because they don’t have the time, or capacity, to process the events to see if there are other possible patterns or outcomes which would break the perceived pattern.

Of course, all this processing happens so fast most people don’t consciously recognize it.

@crisw – I googled “ego is innately prideful” and found this blog which led me to the title of a book by Dr. David Hawkins, Transcending levels of consciousness, which I was able to find on Amazon.

crisw's avatar


Thanks. That book doesn’t look much like a scientific text…and it looks like Dawkins is into some major quackery, and is also one of those people who touts his degrees…from a diploma mill.

gasman's avatar

That’s why formal, published scientific research is so difficult to conduct—and why the result must be tested by a jury of the scientist’s peers.

@crisw Hawkins – not Dawkins. Big difference!

thorninmud's avatar

There are a couple of mechanisms at work.

One is that when we are looking for something, we must start with some conceptualization of what that thing is likely to be like when we find it. We have a mental image of what we’re looking for. This applies to something as specific as looking for a quarter in a pocketful of change, or as general as looking for Truth. This is just how the brain operates when in “search” mode: “Imagine what I’m looking for, then sift through experience for something that matches”. Anything that doesn’t resemble our object as we’ve imagined it may not even register in our awareness at all, because an unconscious pre-screening process selectively rules out unlikely prospects. That’s useful when we’re looking for a quarter, but a terrible hindrance when we’re looking for Truth. Truth is always larger than we imagine, so we end up only finding partial truths, at best.

The other mechanism is that we hate being wrong and love being right. Maybe natural selection fostered this trait; under primitive conditions, being right means survival, being wrong means going hungry, or worse, so it’s natural that our brain’s reward system would fire when we’re right and cringe when we’re wrong. Where that all goes awry, though, is when we’re so desperate to avoid the downer of being wrong that we shore up our position with whatever garbage we can find. We’ll only admit to being wrong when that position becomes hopelessly indefensible, all because being wrong feels awful.

Our culture places great value on Knowing. The fact is, even the most knowledgeable among us know basically nothing. But appearing to know nothing is bad for social status, so we put on our best show, and hope nobody sees through to all that not-knowing behind the show.

Ladymia69's avatar

I think the ego is fragile and its interest in finding something akin to itself is far-reaching. We are hard-wired to find a reflection of our own point of view. I mean, wouldn’t you love to find someone just by chance who thinks exactly the same things as you? It would be a novelty, anyway.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Like others said, it probably has more to do with ease of thinking. It goes along with schema theory, which states that we rely on previous data to filter any new stimuli through. It’s a lot easier to do that most of the time than to basically have to rewire your thinking.

I also tend to add that true wisdom seems to come from being able to analyze our schema(s), in the form of unexamined assumptions and premises. Being able to do that to some degree allows us to examine issues more fully and realistically.

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