Telling your story – how and why we think we are right when we are wrong


Fake news. Facebook. Why do we wrap our minds around things we know not to be true?

Because we believe what we want to believe. We look for facts that support our world view – what we experience first.  We also generally establish facts based on WHAT WE HEAR FIRST. What our experience is. How they have shaped up. Generally, as humans we are crap at being objective.

Being objective HURTS.

We don’t like having things presented to us that challenge our world view.

The more experienced we become, and accumulate information, the worse the bias becomes.

This is called confirmation bias. This is when we are presented with multiple examples that challenge what we know, but do not change what we think. We like consistency, so to change our original views challenges us.

Confirmation bias is when you believe things you shouldn’t, because they fit with you world view. And things that don’t are discarded.

What our minds helpfully do, is look to confirm what we already know. If we do not know about something, you will gravitate towards WHATEVER YOU HEAR FIRST, disregarding important facts that would disprove the original statement.The story then generally is the story of the person who first tells it.

At a gig last year, the psychs there helpfully explained that to make a project work, I needed to get in first so that the story was my story (the line of work I am in has psych support due to the serious nature of it). The psychs advised to simply get in first, so that my view would be the first one heard, and people would naturally then follow it.

Or in other terms, hunt or be hunted. Charming.

Manipulation of confirmation bias was also found in the US election via Facebook  – if you liked a number of posts that are right leaning, you will get advertising that reflects that, and links/click bait that will reinforce what you already know.

Outside of elections, Facebook (and Netflix, and every website that tracks) will make suggestions for you based on past behaviour, thereby reducing the likelihood of you looking outside your confirmation bias.

In order to combat confirmation bias, there are a number of things you can try:

  1. Like/follow different things to change the algorithm used by social media websites. You could even start a new profile, and like the opposite things of what you would normally follow, and see what comes up.
  2. Watch something you wouldn’t normally watch. For example if you watch comedies, watch a drama. Or if you watch Western films, try an Eastern one.
  3. Learn a language
  4. Drive/walk a different way home
  5. Walk a different way home
  6. Learn something new.
  7. Ask for feedback from multiple sources on something. It tells a more complete picture.
  8. Check the links in an article. Who are the authors? Who is the website? This will tell you their own bias.
  9. Don’t listen to gossip before meeting someone. You will try to cling to the original assessment. Form your own view.

These things reroute the neurons in your brain, making them more active and take in more information.

It is worth noting that confirmation bias is more likely to occur when it is a highly emotional topic for the person, or involves people’s ideology. In other words, we hold tight to what we value, even if it results in choices that make us unhappy.

So to make better choices, and support ourselves into the future, we need to make sure we are looking to hear information that is different to what we already know.

You can never remove bias entirely, but you can tell a more complete picture by looking at the full facts of a story. And you can make better choices, that align with your present and future values and stories, rather than just telling the same old story over and over.

To learn more about confirmation bias in action for the election, have a read here:

The New Yorker

Or just look around…if you agree with something immediately, you’ve found  confirmation bias….

Happy reflection time,

Emma x







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