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Confirmation Bias

February 14, 2008

One thing I often question is the notion that people simply use logic and rational to make their argument. The point is typically made that their argument is not based on emotion. I have often stated that I don’t buy that because we are all emotionally attached and therefore we can’t avoid its influence in everything we do. So we may compose our thoughts logically but in the end that only makes us feel better.

Recently I read a discussion about some different theological points on another blog. In reading the blog one responder couldn’t get their arms around some thoughts of another poster. I understand that, what frustrates me is that most people don’t understand confirmation bias and because of that they don’t see how this has far more impact on their thinking than any perceived biblical shortcomings of an argument.

In the research surrounding confirmation bias what they discovered is that people go with what they already believe no matter what the evidence shows. In essence they discount any evidence to the contrary and only select evidence that supports their case. It didn’t matter how much contradictory evidence existed, the test subjects gave greater weight to the evidence that supported their position

This is easy to see in the religious world. Evidence is presented that is contrary to ones position but guess what we do, we minimize it. It should give us pause to insure that God is really the one we are defending instead of our own bias. The research showed that even when presented with overwhelming contradictory evidence those who were biased were unfazed.

The evidence we hold dear always holds more weight whether that evidence truly does or doesn’t. In the end research into confirmation bias shows that even when a false claim is made and backed up with week evidence the contradictory evidence is ignored.

This should be a great warning for those who desire Truth. It should give us pause when we approach scripture because it is easy to use the Bible for confirmation bias without realizing it. The danger is our bias suddenly becomes God’s. Maybe that is why Truth is presented as a person, not a set of facts to be certified. Maybe God our maker understood our bias.

I share this only as a warning, be careful of your confirmation bias and remember, we are never as objective as we would like to believe.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 14, 2008 6:01 pm

    Darin,
    Thank you so much for the warning and reminder to us all.

  2. benoverby permalink
    February 16, 2008 4:42 pm

    Excelling, Darin. We are never as objective as we’d like to believe because we’re always equally subjective. We see things through a grid–a confirmation bias. Your statement about God sending truth as a person rather than a set of facts is powerful!

  3. February 18, 2008 7:57 pm

    Good thoughts Darin.

    More should listen…

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