Avoiding confirmation bias

As many have already observed, these days there is absolutely no reason to be ignorant about any subject that interests you. Well at least not a good reason. I won’t bore you with all the stats and figures about how often human knowledge doubles, about how many searches there are each second, or about how many new discoveries have been made just since you started reading this post. You know all of that.
What you might not now, or maybe perhaps just haven’t considered is that there is a dark side to the easy availability of all this information. It goes by many names, but the one that seems most descriptive to me is confirmation bais, most specifically in its biased search for information form. Because it’s so easy to get so much information, it’s also easy to get “enough” information to satisfy our original intellectual itch without stopping to consider the other side, and even more rarely do we consider that there may be more than two sides. I know that I have been guilty of this and I’ve seen it happen all too many times with my friends.
It doesn’t matter if were seeking information about an event from history, the latest diet or even on recent events, it’s really easy to look at the first few results, accept them as the “truth” and never dig deeper. Avoiding confirmation basis has two parts – one easy and one hard. The easy one is to make a standard part of your information gathering the step of adding a few key terms to whatever you were just looking for.
For example, I recently heard about and wanted to look into Bulletproof Coffee (sorry BP coffee guys – I don’t know the HTML code for a TM or C). For those of you not following me on Facebook, Bulletproof coffee is a simple recipe of adding grass fed butter and MCT oil (as found in coconut oil) to coffee and then blending. The idea is that the fats in the coffee keep your brain well fed and you can go longer without eating, but not get hungry. I read the source material on the site promoting the idea and listened to a podcast where it’s inventor was interviewed. It all sounded pretty good. But just to make sure that I wasn’t falling prey to confirmation bias, I did a few other searches….bulletproof coffee scam….bulletproof coffee hoax….bulletproof coffee doesn’t work, etc. I read what came up here as well, and this is the second, harder part, with an open mind. I had to hold the two ideas in my head at the same time while I considered the evidence and the logic that was being presented. Then, after considering both sides, I made my decision – it seemed like it worked for a lot of people, it wasn’t too expensive to try, and there were little to no downsides if it didn’t work. (This post is not really about the coffee, but a week and a few days into it and I can say I’ve noticed a huge difference!)
Clearly, deciding whether to try a coffee recipe is not the most important thing I will ever do. If I had just took the initial information and moved on, I would have made the same decision – albeit from a less informed position. But there are many other things that people search for or see and decide to add to their view of “what is” that are far more important that they do less fact checking on. Don’t be that guy. It takes you 2 minutes to do the searches for the information you want to see – spend another two minutes searching for and reading the information you don’t want to see. Sometimes you’ll save someone else the trouble of convincing you you are wrong.






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