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5 Ways to Overcome Confirmation Bias (and Exit Your Bubble)


There’s a comfort in reading evidence that supports our beliefs. It makes us feel vindicated. But it may also mean we are suffering from confirmation bias. What happens when we ignore or reject information that contradicts our stance? 

We all have opinions. But how we apply these opinions in life says a lot about us. Do we rigidly stick to our belief system, even when evidence comes to light that contradicts our thoughts? Or can we find the flexibility within ourselves to expand our views based on incoming information? 

In this article, we will explain what confirmation bias means. We will examine several studies, and discuss the impact confirmation bias has on our mental health. We will also suggest 5 ways you can overcome confirmation bias. 

What is confirmation bias?

We all think we interpret news with logic, reason, and intelligence. But our life experiences can cause us to develop confirmation biases, which serve as a filter through which we view the world. 

Your mind constantly seeks proof that will confirm your beliefs. If you have negative beliefs, your mind will seek to prove those negative thoughts. If you have positive beliefs, your mind will seek to prove those positive thoughts. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of our beliefs.

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Confirmation bias is a psychological term for the human propensity only to seek information that supports an existing belief or idea. By the same notion, it rejects, ignores, or doesn’t even process information with opposing views. 

In short, we gather evidence to support our position.

Scientists have different ideas as to why confirmation biases exist. Their ideas include: 

  • It assists us with information processing. 
  • It increases our confidence and self-esteem.
  • It reduces cognitive dissonance.

What are examples of confirmation bias?

One of the most common examples of confirmation bias is during elections. We tend to seek out favorable information on the candidate we support. While at the same time, we hang on to critical details about opposing candidates.  

This example of confirmation bias is divisive and polarizing. 

Politics is riddled with confirmation bias. We see a politician in a party we don’t support behaving in a certain way, and we shout for their resignation. But when we see politicians from the party we support behave similarly, we adopt the halo effect. We make excuses for them or minimize their actions. 

Confirmation bias can also show up in relationships. 

We may feel a friend is off with us. This belief will cause us to look for evidence in their behavior. If they don’t answer our calls or reply to our messages, we automatically believe it is personal. Our hypothesis is satisfied with this evidence. At the same time, there could be a myriad of reasons for their behavior. 

Studies on confirmation bias

When it comes to mental health issues, we rely on a correct diagnosis to receive appropriate treatment for our health and well-being. Therefore, a proper diagnosis is very important. 

This study set out to explore the existence of confirmation bias in a medical environment. It also examined whether this confirmation bias is linked to inaccurate diagnoses. 

The study’s authors presented 75 physicians and 75 medical students with an experimental decision task. 

Their findings were conclusive of a confirmation bias in the diagnostic arena. Of the 150 participants, 13% of the physicians and 25% of the medical students showed a confirmation bias when searching for new information following a preliminary diagnosis. Meaning they were more likely to favor information that supported their initial diagnosis. 

Perhaps most interesting is that physicians who conducted a confirmatory search made the wrong diagnosis 70% of the time. This figure is significantly higher than the 47% of times the wrong diagnosis is made when conducting a non-confirmatory search. 

What this study proves is that our initial opinion about something has a disproportional influence on our future opinions. Even when new information contrasts our initial opinion, the confirmation bias causes us to dismiss this and stick to our original position.

This can have a serious impact on our mental health.

How does the confirmation bias affect your mental health?

Confirmation bias stops us from seeing things as they are and can skew our sense of reality. This false sense of life leads to a complete disconnect between what is real and what isn’t. 

This disconnect from reality can harm our mental health and well-being. In particular, it may adversely affect our: 

  • Relationships. 
  • Work-life. 
  • Personal growth. 

A Scottish study with 99 teenage participants found that susceptibility to cognitive biases positively correlates with depression and anxiety. Therefore, helping the participants overcome their cognitive biases could improve their well-being.

Someone close to me regularly rejects my input on a topic I know intimately. She does this because it does not match her own beliefs. In contrast, she will accept information from someone with less knowledge simply because it matches her bias. I find this frustrating and alienating and it leads to a disconnect in our relationships. 

5 tips to overcome confirmation bias

We all suffer from confirmation biases from time to time. They help build our confidence and access information quickly. But it’s essential to recognize when our confirmation bias controls our thoughts and behaviors. 

Here are 5 tips to help you overcome confirmation bias. 

1. Be open to disagreement 

Get out of that echo chamber. 

We derive comfort from surrounding ourselves with people who think similarly to us. But there’s a danger in this as well. 

Actively seek out people with opposing views. You don’t need to argue, nor should you force your opinion on others. Take time to listen, ask open questions, and be willing to hear views you don’t adhere to. 

Find new sources to read about counterarguments to your beliefs. Take the time to determine why others take an opposing stance to you. 

It’s OK to disagree. No 2 humans agree with each other on all topics.

2. Be willing to change your mind 

It’s one thing listening to the opinions of another. It’s an entirely different skill set to recognize when the information you receive is credible and persuasive enough to allow you to change your stance. 

Don’t be that person to double down on your belief. It’s OK to change your mind. It’s OK to process new information and allow this to change your mindset and, in turn, alter your course of direction. 

Changing our minds based on new information is a sign of maturity. Being unable to do so is a sign that you lack self-awareness.

We encourage personal growth when we process new information without the restriction of confirmation bias. In this situation, no one can accuse us of being stuck in our ways. 

3. You don’t need to be right 

Some people are more concerned about being right than about finding the truth. So much so that they feed into a confirmation bias. 

Try proving yourself wrong. What are some of your strongest beliefs? Perhaps they are political, religious, or social. Set yourself a challenge and try and prove yourself wrong. 

Learn to be comfortable with being wrong. Only the most secure and confident people can admit when they are wrong. 

Let’s eradicate the need to be right all the time. Here’s the thing, if we always think we are correct, then we will be less likely to seek out new information. 

Seek out the truth, don’t just seek to prove yourself right.  

4. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable  

It would help if you looked at the big picture to test your confirmation bias. This big picture viewing means researching websites you hate and reading articles that make your skin crawl. Go out and find information that is contrary to your hypothesis. 

As discussed before, it’s easy to default to a confirmation bias. It’s comfortable and reassuring. But it’s time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

Relish in all the information available, not just the information that favors your stance. It feels uncomfortable to read statements opposing our beliefs, but it helps us to open our minds to other possibilities. 

Take off those rose-tinted specs and embrace the full-color spectrum. 

5. Stay curious

Staying curious is a great tip, regardless of the circumstances.  

But staying curious is especially helpful to overcome confirmation bias. Don’t settle for any information coming your way. Explore it, ask questions, and research science journals. Speak to experts and those who have experienced the topic at hand. 

Beware of wedging yourself into a corner with rigid and firm beliefs. Be careful you don’t fixate on an idea to such an extent that your confirmation bias creates the world around you. 

Get Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet

10 evidence-based tips to improve your mental health instantaneously when you need to take care of yourself!

Get Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet

10 evidence-based tips to improve your mental health instantaneously when you need to take care of yourself!

Wrapping up

It’s nice to feel that our beliefs are “right,” but confirmation bias don’t always serve us. We must be open to the complete picture to embrace personal growth. We can overcome the susceptibility of confirmation bias by being open to disagreement, accepting that you're not always right, and always staying curious

How do confirmation biases show up in your life? How do you overcome them? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Ali Hall

Writer

Kindness is my superpower. Dogs and nature are my oxygen. Psychology with Sports science graduate. Scottish born and bred. I’ve worked and traveled all over the world. Find me running long distances on the hills and trails.

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