Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. We latch onto information that supports what we already believe. We ignore or deny information to the contrary. We ignore or deny opposing views.
I know this full well. In one of my previous lives, I was a personal trainer/fitness director. This required extensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology and nutrition. I was shown all kinds of “proof” that fat was bad for us. I was taught that nutritional fat would cause physical fat on the body. When I began doing my own research, it was telling me that the opposite. Nutritional fat was not related to fat on the body. At first I was angry and thought it had to be wrong. I kept digging. I kept finding additional research telling me that I was wrong. It took six months of digging to fully embrace this research.
Neuroscience tells us that we are wired for this type of reaction. Brain scans show that when we see information that we agree with our pleasure centers light up and our prefrontal cortex (reasoning) shuts down. If we see information that we disagree with, our fight or flight response is triggered and our reasoning shuts down. We are happy when information agrees with our point and we want to argue when we encounter an opposing view. In both cases reasoning shuts down. It’s easy to see how we get locked into a position just as I did.
How do we ever learn? How do we grow in our understanding, or expand our thinking? Scripture gives us some clues, and it’s not about standing our ground ready for a fight.
let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— (Proverbs 1:5 NIV).
I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching (Proverbs 4:2 NIV).
Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. (Proverbs 9:9 NIV).
It begins with an openness to learning, expanding our understanding rather than shutting down opposing views instantly. We are wise to fully examine what we think we know and what others present to us as new knowledge. It doesn’t mean we change our minds as I did. Sometimes the exploration strengthens our initial understanding. The idea is to follow the wisdom of Proverbs and allow ourselves the opportunity to add to our learning. I can learn from those I disagree with a heart that is willing to listen.
How do you embrace opposing views? How do you challenge yourself to learn and grow? Share our experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.