Confirmation Bias?

May 29, 2019 · Print This Article

Religion can be a contentious topic. The idea of old, stale ‘holy’ books ruling our life often doesn’t appeal to us. And when asked our personal thoughts on a book such as the Bible, we may have replied, ‘I don’t believe it is true!’ And the conversation is over. But have we ever looked beyond the cover of this influential book? For many of us, confirmation bias has held us back from turning its pages. So what is confirmation bias?

Each of us is the sum of our experiences and memories. We absorb beliefs from our parents, our schools, our culture, our further education, our jobs, and our social circles. Also, what we see and read in the media has more of an effect than we would like to admit.

So as a coping mechanism, to deal with this complex world full of ideas, we build up a set of beliefs throughout life to help us make sense of the world. As a result, we can end up absorbing information which confirms what we already believe, but rejects information which conflicts with our established beliefs, even if that information is true! So, two people with different beliefs about a particular topic can read the same article about this topic, and because of their confirmation bias, they will either accept or reject the article.

Confirmation bias is influenced by the desire we attach to our beliefs. When we would like a certain concept/idea to be true, we often end up believing it to be true. Then, once we have formed a view about a belief, we embrace information that confirms our view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it.

Let’s take Brexit, for example. If we believe we should leave the EU, what we hear and read in the media will either confirm our view, or we will simply reject the information. If we believe the UK should remain in the EU, the same applies, we will reject whatever information doesn’t conform to our particular belief.

This is often the same problem when it comes to the views about the Bible. If we believe it is somehow inspired by God, we will read it with an open mind and heart. If we don’t believe it possesses any truth, we’ll read it looking to confirm our belief, or more likely, just ignore it altogether.

In fact, the scary thing can be that if we are presented with unimpeachable facts that disagree with our point of view, because of confirmation bias, we will often reject these facts.

So confirmation bias can be dangerous; it can stop us from seeing what is true or not. This self-deception of confirmation bias can be likened to a drug, numbing us from reality. So what’s the cure?

The cure is to learn to look for evidence that disagrees with what we believe. To be more objective, not prejudiced. To be open-minded and prepared to think rather than just accept what we’ve already been brought up to believe. The result will be an enhanced self-confidence about what we do believe! So why not use reading the Bible as an exercise to challenge our confirmation bias? Are you confident enough to do so?

Keith Hartrick.

[Keith is a retired Managing Director and the church leader of our Leeds congregation, Grace Communion International. He is editor of Richard’s blogs.]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Comments are closed.