Take a look at your FaceBook feed.  Chances are that most of your “friends” think pretty much the same way about things that you do. And since almost half of us get our news from social media, almost half us only read “news” that “agrees” with or reinforces what we think we already know.

FaceBook, along with every other social media platform as well as every “mainstream” news channel, is well aware of what is being called confirmation bias.  Confirmation bias, aka “my-side” bias, is the tendency to seek information (whether or not that information is accurate) that substantiates our own beliefs.  My-side bias, in effect, blinds us from being objective about facts, facts that may prove us and our biases wrong.

There are three forms of this phenomenon called confirmation bias.  All of them are unconscious and all of them contribute to and/or “trick” us into our believing the wrong thing.

  1.  Biased information is “evidence” we seek that strengthens our own belief system.  It doesn’t matter that a house is in fact sited on a flood plain…we come up with “evidence” that no house in the immediate vicinity has experienced any flooding in the last 5 years.
  2. Biased interpretation is viewing evidence in ways that are different or that contradict the evidence in the first place.  It doesn’t matter that a real estate agent has a long year history of being an outstanding marketer.  If the property sells in 30 days rather than in 15 days, that agent doesn’t know how to market the property.
  3. Biased memory is selective memory or sometimes called sensitive recall.  We remember a “piece” of information, not all of the information, selectively as to, again, substantiate our own point of view.  It doesn’t matter that the average sales price of a home in Portland increased by +9% during a 12 month period.  Portland is still not a seller’s market because the average sales price did not increase enough for the owner to consider selling her house.

Making business decisions based upon confirmation bias can be dangerous.  We can blow the tiniest hint of success out of proportion and not continue to “stay the course.”  We can ignore crucial information that we don’t want to know or hear.  We can dismiss exceptional performance as being expected performance that doesn’t warrant recognition and then lose that exceptional performer to another business that recognizes how exceptional she is.

To combat confirmation bias, seek out techniques and information that prove you wrong, that compel you to think independently from your “usual,” like minded group of friends and and that nudge you to accept results that your my-side bias “told” you were wrong or surprising.

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