I don’t write political posts. I care deeply about the future of the United States but I lack the passion to write about American politics. However, one of the things that has stayed on my mind this year, which is related to the 2016 election, regards bias. This 2016 election is a fascinating case study for Cognitive Science / Behavioral Science.
Several years ago, I began to learn how flawed I am thanks to cognitive bias. We’re all flawed. We all suffer from things like Confirmation bias, Blind-spot bias, Conservatism bias, Choice-supportive bias and the Bandwagon effect — just to name a few. Those biases have nothing to do with being a republican, a democrat or an independent. Rather, they are the ways that our brains protect our psyche from the great anxiety we feel when different pieces of information contradict each other, or when information goes against a current stance. Our bias flaws are there to make the dissonance in our head go away when new information contradicts our current opinions or beliefs. We can’t stand disharmony in our psyche. As a result, we humans are often quite irrational. Our biases impede human reasoning.
On both sides of this election, each group has looked at the opposing side and asked, “how can they be so blind!?!?!?”
My realization several years ago of confirmation biases was both illuminating and startling. I looked back at my own personal history of strongly held beliefs or views, and I thought “wow, yes, I see it now.” I have routinely dismissed credible information that contradicted current viewpoints.
In hindsight, some of the most important human growth I have experienced in life has occurred when I deliberately and intentionally consumed credible information that was counter to my stance or belief. Alas, it was often an exhausting and emotional journey to take. But in the end, it was worth it each time I did so.
I wish it were easier though. Very few people are willing to take the time and energy to sincerely look at an opposing view. It also takes courage. I’d love to hope that more people would muster the courage to put themselves in someone else’s shoes — to sincerely consider another person’s perspective. I wish we would all keep it in mind that cognitive bias is impeding our ability to reason and to consider both sides of an argument. Perhaps that is what empathy is all about?
If you’ve read this far, your blind-spot bias is probably reacting! I haven’t even stated a political position but readers likely want to know who I supported so that they can either dismiss what’s been written or agree with it — dependent on who I supported! And that’s rather crazy. Or sad. Or both.
But my post isn’t about Trump vs. Clinton. It’s about hoping for positive things in the future, like increased empathy and awareness of what makes us tick. Or as I’ve learned, what makes us not tick so well.