Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I'm about to nerd it up: the confirmation bias

We see the world through a filter, and you can't get rid of that filter no matter what you do or how much you want to avoid it. It's called the confirmation bias, which scares me and interests my inner psych nerd at the same time.

The confirmation bias means that everyone subconsciously pays more attention to information that confirms what they already believe. The example I read was this: Let's say you're at a party and someone mentions that long dead Nickelodeon show Catdog. You haven't even thought about Catdog since the 90s and you never hear anything about it. Suddenly, you start seeing Catdog everywhere. You wonder why everyone is suddenly so interested in Catdog, but it's really just that the conversation at the party brought it to your conscious and made you more aware of things related to it.

Everything you have ever seen or heard enters your brain. Whether or not you remember it depends on whether or not you process it, and in order to process it, you have to have a reason to pay attention to it. When something is on your mind, like a recent Catdog conversation, you start paying attention to things related to what's on your mind. Because of this, we see only what we want to see, only things that confirm what we already know. We ignore everything else, not because we're close-minded, but because that's how our brains work.

This whole concept of information processing applies to our beliefs. If we think something is true, we subconsciously search for information consistent with that belief, and interpret the information we see to confirm. This is like paradigm theory. We have a paradigm, or a general idea that's considered true, and we use it to guide all research in that area. When the paradigm changes, they reevaluate everything they thought they knew to fit the new paradigm (like flat Earth vs. round Earth).

I think this is so interesting because it makes me think that our world exists within our minds. We see the world through a filter, and really isn't a way to see the world as it truly is. Because no one can see the world without a filter or a bias, true reality does not exist. A combination of genetic predisposition, conditioning, cognitive schemas, cultural influence, and experience lead people to construct their world from the inside out.

Like paint samples in a design studio, people choose from the world's innumerable stimuli and paint their world in their own colors. This fascinates me and scares me at the same time. I wonder what colors I chose and just how much I'm missing.


1 comment:

  1. Haha you totally just "nerded it up" as you call it xD You just talked about psych stuff and paradigms that's like the ultimate nerd ;D

    I constantly wonder how other people see the world and I always want to be able to get into people's perspectives so I can find out but sadly it's not possible. Oh and 30 Rock doesn't apply to the filter because 30 Rock encompasses life itself xD