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bias? confirmed

By August 26, 2019 2 Comments

Do you suffer from confirmation bias? Yes, friends, confirmation bias has always been a problem and it’s a big problem now. We’re told it’s related to apophenia (yes, the dreaded apophenia). Apophenia (apowhatia? a-po-FEEN-ee-a) is the tendency to mistakenly see connections between unrelated things. As – broadly – in the supposed connection between bad luck and stepping on cracks in the sidewalk. (About which there’s no connection. None whatever. So you can step on cracks with abandon and not a single back will be broken.)

Confirmation bias takes place when someone remembers or favors information that supports what they already believe or what they want to believe. If I hear a bunch of factual information but remember only the points that support what I already believe, that’s confirmation bias. If I interpret things in ways that support what I already believe, that’s confirmation bias. Let’s say, for example, that I’m told ten positive things and ten negative things about someone. If the person is a friend, I’m likely to forget the negative things or decide they don’t really matter. If the person is not a friend I’m likely to go the other way: The positive things won’t register or I’ll decide that the negative things matter much more than the positive things.

It gets worse. Supposedly unbiased information can be presented in ways that encourage confirmation bias. A news report about an event might present information in such a way that viewers are more likely to have negative feelings about the event. Or someone’s accomplishments might be listed in small type while her failings might be listed in big red letters. Both were reported: Where’s the problem? Political ads are famous for encouraging confirmation bias. They’ll use an unattractive photograph of the person they’re attacking, or they’ll play spooky music while describing the opposing candidate. Sound familiar?

Today’s world is so fragmented that we can easily end up being exposed only to things we agree with. By paying attention to some things and ignoring others we can fashion and inhabit whole worlds that are at once reassuring and fictional. We can surround ourselves only with people who agree with us in every respect.

Confirmation bias is a problem because it distorts our understanding of reality. Decisions based upon confirmation bias are likely to be bad decisions: We take the wrong courses of action; we put our money in the wrong places; we elect the wrong people.

The refreshing thing about reality is that it’s real. It is what it is. It ain’t what it ain’t. It’s there, ready to be discovered and appreciated. It’s also resilient. Something that’s true doesn’t stop being true just because some of us refuse to believe it. Happily, we can check our facts and investigate our assumptions. We can live in the light of truth: “[A]nd you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32) Amen? Amen.

Here’s three bits of resilient truth: This is God’s world. It’s grounded in Love. You are beloved.

2 Comments

  • Sharon Escoto says:

    Father Dirk
    I want to thank you all for a beautiful Mass we attended this morning. We always attend Our Lady of Guadalupe when we are in Denver visiting our son. We were walking City Park and saw your church. My husbands name is Ignacio do I told myself we need to stop by there. The doors were locked and decided we would go to Mass there. I’m very thankful for the doors were locked because we would of them attended our regular church. The moment I entered I felt at home. The man who was playing the drum captured my attention and as I say, the entire Zchoir was very moving. The beautiful “Joseph Song” that was sung touched my heart and had me in tears. He sang it so beautifully. I loved how they sang “Silent Night” both in English and Spanish and most of all, I loved how Father sang the Liturgy of the Eurcharist instead of reading it. I loved his homily and Blessing. I saw where he had his Thanksgiving homily, I’m hoping he has this weeks too. Those are blessings to the congregation as well to my two sons that I will be sharing with. Pray for them, one here in Denver and the other one in New York to bring them back to church. I could go on and on. I thank the choir lady personally for a beautiful first time experience. A very nice parish. See you all when we come back but for the meantime, I will be checking on your website and bulletins. You all ROCK 🎸 God bless you all 🙏🏼 Sharon Kay Escoto – tickie458@aol.com

  • Amen! It is so reassuring to know that this world is grounded in love. Also, it is true, pretty much everyone suffers from confirmation except those who are vigilant in recognizing and consciously fighting it.

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