Confirmatory Bias: The Normative Mode of Human Thinking

I have noticed something funny. Back when some polls showed Humphrey Trumpey ahead, the Alt Right was going berserk. They were all insisting that Drumpf was 100% sure to win while they patted themselves on the back.

Now that recent polls show Hitlery beating Drumpf by double digits, suddenly the polls can never be trusted because polls are wrong, polls don’t mean anything and polls cannot be trusted. In other words, when Drumpf was ahead, the polls were all correct, but when he is behind, the polls are suddenly all wrong.

I think this is called confirmatory bias. Confirmatory bias is the basic mode of human thinking. People’s minds are pretty funny. People don’t believe what is true. People could care less what is true. To most people, “truth” means “whatever statements make me feel good or support my ideology.” These feel-good statements become “facts.” Falsehood or lies means “whatever statements make me feel bad or contradict my ideology.” These feel-bad statements become “lies.” This is really the way that the human mind operates. Most people I know think this way.

People can’t handle cognitive dissonance. My guy is always 100% good. Their guy or team is always 100% bad. I know hardline Democrats who feel this way. Everything a Democratic President does is automatically good, no matter how awful or reactionary. We have to support him 100%. We can’t oppose a single thing he does. It’s all or nothing.

And their attitude about Republicans is that Republicans are 100% wrong, in general. They never credit Republicans with anything.

Most people use this tactic in arguments. I often “lose” arguments because I freely admit that my side does bad things. My opponent then jumps up and seizes on this as, “Hah! Even you admit that your team is the bad guys!” And of course they never concede one point about their side. Their side is always 100% good. But they “win” the argument because the result of the argument was that their side was 100% good (because they said so), and my side was only 80% good and even I admitted that my side did some bad things. 0% bad beats 20% bad every time.

You see, they can’t handle the idea that their side is even 99% good and 1% bad. That screws up everything and causes confusion. The only way to fight the confusion is to say that their side is 100% good. Because once you start admitting that your side is at least a little bit bad, people feel bad for supporting bad guys. Also people start to wonder if they should really be supporting a side that is somewhat bad. Are they really only somewhat bad?

Same thing holds for the opposing side. The opposing side cannot be given any credit. Once you say they are 1% good, everything is trashed. So the opposing side has to be 100% bad. That way you can support the good guys and oppose the bad guys, which is really what most people want to do.

I infuriate people because I break through this all good versus all bad thinking. I just pour cold water all over that concept. That is why people say my ideology is “incoherent.” It’s “incoherent” because I am more rightwing on some things and more leftwing on others and maybe more centrist on other stuff. That boils down to “incoherence.” If you’re Left, you’re all Left. If you’re Centrist, you’re all Centrist. If you’re Right, you’re all Right. This is the only way to be non-contradictory and coherent.

Most humans think this way. This is the way humans think. Just get used to it. I have known people who have gifted to genius IQ’s from 130-150, and they thought this way as much as anyone. I do not really think that smart people are any more open-minded than anyone else. Smart people are prone to the same bullshit thinking that everyone else is.

Humans just can’t deal with ambiguity and grey areas. It causes anxiety and makes them wonder if their views are really correct. Are the good guys really the good guys? Are the bad guys really the bad guys? Am I rooting for the right team? These thoughts are confusing and cause anxiety, so most people don’t want to think them. So they do the Manichean thing and avoid all of the confusing uncertainty.

44 Comments

Filed under Democrats, Politics, Psychology, Republicans, US Politics

44 responses to “Confirmatory Bias: The Normative Mode of Human Thinking

  1. Jason Y

    That seems to be the case with the tribalism displayed by Sam. Of course, some of the stuff he says makes sense, but it’s blown out of proportion. It’s like comparing drinking a coca cola to drinking cocaine. Yes, people have affection for their own race, including the failures in their own race. Yes, that’s true, but only to a point.

    So all the white supremacists (or any other type of supremacist) say is just some lies, some truth, but truth taken to a massive extreme.

    So we have exxageration that our team is always the best, that we can do no wrong, and that sticking with our team all the time is always the way to go.

    • Jason Y

      Actually it’s bais that causes racial politics, and all the stuff which makes white supremacists, black people, latinos etc.. disagree to a violent degree. Each group is biased toward thinking their group can do no wrong, and you cannot crticize thier group, but they can criticize other groups all they want.

      So a black person cannot tolerate racism against his group which is God’s chosen, but then the same person sits backs and bashes white people to the point of a nuclear holocaust.

    • Sam J.

      “…Of course, some of the stuff he says makes sense, but it’s blown out of proportion…”

      Everything I say is correct. There is every now and then a twist in the knife as I stick it in that I throw in for fun. If you’ve read my comments long enough you can tell when I’m doing so but none of it is a lie so it’s not over the top it’s just not politically correct.

      “…sticking with our team all the time is always the way to go…”

      That’s what the Jews did and they run the country. They own us. We fight wars for them, we pay them money every year for…nothing, they bomb our buildings and we do nothing, while they sell our military secrets to China.

      And stop calling me a White Supremacist. You know this is a lie. If you continue to do so I will know you’re just an evil liar. The White Supremacist label is a tactic used by Jews and other evil people to silence White people from looking after their people first and not spending all their capital on aliens from the third world.

      • Jason Y

        Spending capital on illegal aliens and spending capital on blacks, who have been here since the 1700s, and were forced to be here, are different things.

    • Barack Thatcher

      Everything I say is correct

      There’s no confirmatory bias, or anything like that involved in that statement?
      Right?

  2. Tulio

    Great post Robert. You’re a smarter guy than I, but we still have many of the same thought patterns. I’ve had thoughts about this topic myself though I haven’t been able to crystallize it as well you have. When you are a grey thinker or see a world in shades of grey rather than black and white, it can be a lonely feeling. You find that you just can’t talk about anything serious with a lot of people without becoming extremely frustrated from polarized thinking. I look at someone like Donald Trump and I really wouldn’t be surprised if he has never experienced cognitive dissonance in his life.

    • Tulio

      Also, I think this is a failure of our education system. People can be trained to move beyond confirmation bias. You just have to teach people appropriate thought patterns and how to recognize bias. People have to realize that Truth(with a capital “T”) can be something completely separated from subjective experience and that there is often my view, your view and then the truth. Often the truth is some combination of my and your view with maybe one of us somewhat more right than the other. Starting at the junior high level, critical thinking skills should be part of the basic curriculum. There should be exercises in recognizing logical fallacies, reason, an understanding of the subjective and objective and the importance of separating the two.

      • Matt

        Then there is the fin de siecle American tendency to think you can change unpleasant reality by believing hard enough. With that, confirmatory bias becomes an actual virtue.

        • Matt

          Here’s an exercise: Try explaining to a Trump voter how you can not support open borders, yet still think the wall is a useless, ineffective, and even detrimental enterprise. Go ahead, I dare ya.

        • Tulio

          Great example Matt. I’m VERY much opposed to illegal immigration. I think we should even amend the Constitution to revoke birthright citizenship. Yet I think the wall is absurd. A Trumpie’s head would explode reading this. I believe in HBD, but I am also anti-racist. An SJW’s head would explode with that line.

        • Barack Thatcher

          “Great example Matt. I’m VERY much opposed to illegal immigration. I think we should even amend the Constitution to revoke birthright citizenship. Yet I think the wall is absurd. A Trumpie’s head would explode reading this. I believe in HBD, but I am also anti-racist. An SJW’s head would explode with that line.”

          Sounds a lot like me, too. Those apparent inconsistencies, are not inconsistencies, really, but are just ideologues failing to understand the “gray area” as you mentioned above.

          I will say I don’t agree on repealing birthright citizenship. That came with the 14th (Civil Rights) amendment, you know?
          But the rest, I’m pretty much with you on.

        • Matt

          I’m about a year into my experiment of taking my politics a la carte.

  3. Barack Thatcher

    I’m cracking up at the Jason-Sam interaction above.

    “You have confirmation bias”
    ‘No, I don’t everything I say is factual and the word of great White God’…..

    it shows if he was to have confirmation bias he’s so self-righteous he wouldn’t know….
    LOL!

  4. Barack Thatcher

    Speaking of the Presidential Election…..
    He’s just about bleeding out in the polls…..

    but with that being said, there is the Brexit surprise potential for here at home.

    Nate Silver also includes Economic trends in addition to the polls to determine the final outcome;
    http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/?ex_cid=rrpromo#plus
    with economic data Hillary has a 78% chance of winning.

    with just the polls, it’s 88%;
    http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/?ex_cid=rrpromo

    He predicted every state in 2012 correctly. For reference Obama was consistently at about 65% chance of victory in the summer of 2012.

    • Tulio

      While I would place my money on Hillary, Donald Trump is not beyond the realm of possibility. Any wild card could throw the race either way. A massive terrorist attack, another leaked Clinton scandal, who knows. She’s not far enough ahead for me to feel comfortable that Trump won’t be elected.

      And I’m no Hillary fan. But Trump is beyond the pale and one of the ugliest forces I’ve seen emerge in my lifetime.

      • Jason Y

        Massive race riots are inevitable with a Trump victory. This should put into motion some really wicked scenarios. Also, his wild-man attitude on the middle east and nukes should land us a massive war, maybe nuclear.

        Of course, there would be riots and a race war with Trump dead set on getting tough on illegals and African American crime. Of course, some say well, “Blacks have always rioted.” But it just isn’t the same. Plus wait and see what will happen when some Rodney King thing emerges again from nowhere.

        • Jason Y

          A nuclear war though won’t cost US lives as when Bush used conventional forces in the middle east. Nonetheless, something bad will happen. This very well could be the end of time, and I’m not speaking of the comedy movie with Danny McBride.

      • Matt

        In my view, Trump is simply not qualified for the job, end of story. It isn’t a matter of ideology at all. And I don’t see why these alt rightists are so over the moon over him. He doesn’t have their backs any more than he has anyone else’s back. I’m even more baffled by libertarians like Molyneaux who are so taken with him. How is Trump a libertarian in any conceivable way?

        • Tulio

          Obama was a Senator before he become president. Why do people like you keep ignoring that fact? It’s so annoying.

        • Tulio

          Matt, I think we are kindred spirits. I am truly taken aback by the Trump phenomenon and the alt-right’s unwavering adulation of a man with absolutely no character, no principles, no intellectual maturity to speak of, no depth or insight into anything important. Well I do know, it comes down to race. To these people Trump is the symbol of a politically incorrect, strong white man taking the nation back from a black man with a funny foreign name. Thus he can do no wrong in their eyes. He may be a bastard, “but he’s our bastard.

        • Barack Thatcher

          Oh good God.

          Obama was a Senator, Tulio is correct. And a Constitutional Law Professor at the University of Chicago. He was also a consultant for the Illinois State Board of Education, AFTER being a community organizer.

          Does Trump’s FAILED Business experience or Apprentice experience qualify him more than those things?
          #dawnofthebraindead

        • Matt

          And a teacher and student of constitutional law, although I’m not sure of what depth. And even the community organizing would require some familiarity with how things are done in the world of policy. Even if you don’t care for Obama, or feel that he is unqualified at some level, the difference between him and Trump is the difference between some and none.

        • Matt

          Tulio, probably. People who try to think clearly about all this are not that common. I just got reamed out on another forum for pointing out (in a convo about how awful Fox News is) that “left wing” outlets like Salon are not so rigorous either. Rationality is thin on the ground.

  5. Barack Thatcher

    Jewson Yiddish (Jason Y), Jewlio (Tulio), Ratt Faced K!ke (Matt), are all hijaking this blog from proud Aryans like Sam!

    • Jason Y

      Sam has some good points, but he’s like my racist brother in law. He’s a guy who has normally always hung out with druggies and poor people. In that case, he has a strong bias to hate all blacks, as the ones he’s encountered were normally ones that would kick his ass and throw him in the dumpster.

      So obviously his view of blacks is going to be dark and cynical, not like what you’d see from some suburban liberal people or even suburban conservative people. Note my brother in law, and my dad also, were so racist that they would even say mean negative things about blacks they see on TV, especially when they see TV portray blacks as being non-violent or nice.

      • Barack Thatcher

        EPGAH had some good points. He did make the plainly factually true point that even adjusted for TONS of factors, rioting occurs more with NAM’s than Whites, including the druggies you talk about, Jason.

        I fail to see one thing of substance Sam has added, ever. Other WN’s are more “Credible” so to speak.

        Barack Thatcher is Jewish.

        The average person can understand multiple regressions because they can bet at a Casino (the fact that they by definition lose, is irrelevant).

        Jews did 9/11

        ALL Blacks are bad Blacks

        etc……..

        • Matt

          To be fair, I don’t think he said all blacks were bad, I think he said (to paraphrase) that he had never experienced enough upside to make up for the downsides. But thinking about it myself, few people of any ethnicity have ever made a lasting, positive influence on my life, and I don’t think I’m any sadder or lonelier than the next guy. That’s life: A few positive experiences, even fewer that make a lasting difference, some well wishers, many people who could be called frenemies (almost all your so-called work friends, for example), many more people who don’t care if you life or die, and a few outright enemies. It’s like a Bell Curve of human relationships.

        • Tulio

          EPGAH openly supported the Dylan Roof massacre.

        • EPGAH

          Yes, the same way you openly supported revenge killings by thugs against cops, right? Let’s see how you walk that one back.

  6. Jason Y

    Conformity bias hurts a lot of people, like my sister who was bullied for having frizzy, curly hair as a child by whites, and she was also ironically bullied at a black school during the short time she was there. I was also bullied for the same reason by white people.

    People are biased to think the way the majority looks is better, and fat, skinny, people with different hair are ugly. But some exceptions are notable like when fat girls are given more acceptance among blacks, hence that’s probably why they hang with ghetto blacks sometimes. But that’s not saying they can’t marry normal blacks and be safe.

    • Dave Mowers

      My earliest childhood memory is from Kindergarten. Every day at a certain time, I could’nt figure out why or what time because I was four, the teachers allowed us to get on the floor and play with, pick out of, a box of toys. Being naturally timid and inquisitive I waited until everyone else picked before getting a toy for myself.

      I found a tin metal truck, like a firetruck and played with it by moving it around in circles. There was a kid with curly afro-type hair who was white but he was a little bigger than the other kids and he always sat next to me for some reason.

      One day an African America child took my truck from me. He came right up and snatched it out of my hand. I sat there perplexed…

      My, “buddy,” asked me if I wanted the truck back and I said yes. Then this four year old kid proceeded to take that truck, made of metal mind you, and beat that black kid senseless until the teachers intervened and he was removed from the school.

      No one ever bothered me again or picked the firetruck as their toy.

      I see that now that child came from a violent and broken home; both of them perhaps but certainly my, “buddy.” He literally beat that child’s face with the truck and I sometimes have livid dreams of the event because it traumatized all of the children in the class. I got his picture and have thought often of finding him just to see his memory of it.

      • Jason Y

        My first fight was against a kid calling me ugly. It was 2nd grade, I pounded his back next to a tree on the school playground. He didn’t fight back at all.

        • Dave Mowers

          Cause he only knew he wants and attitude his parents allowed.

          Good thing he didn’t have crazy parents who taught him to fight?

          My home town had parents who taught their children to beat other people to death when challenged by beating their kids like dogs.

        • Jason Y

          Well, actually I got in a similar fight with some mountain kids during a school basketball game on thier home turf. I didn’t win that one.

  7. Barack Thatcher

    One of the best posts ever on this blog.

    It’s ironically comforting, as it easily explains so much of human behavior.

    If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it
    -Einstein

  8. Tulio

    So why weren’t they doing this when the polls showed Trump and Hillary neck and neck?

    • Barack Thatcher

      Sam- yeah more registered democrats are involved in these polls, but that’s an accurate representation of the populace. It’s not “50-50”. It’s “32-23” according to PEW.

      That being said, Trump will outperform polls considering many are doing poorly and are mad. But it won’t be enough.

      He needs Blacks, and his supporters like you aren’t helping!😉

  9. Barack Thatcher

    “poles”
    snicker

  10. I don’t get it. What do Polacks have to do with any of this? Can someone clear this up for me?

  11. AssemblyLineHuman

    Occasionally, due to the way I argue, some people say “You think your right about everything, dont you!!”

    To that I reply…
    “Of course I think I’m right on everyting. Do you think I would hold a view I thought was wrong?”

    It is actually a strange question to ask. If you’re going to argue a position, then obviously, you hold that position because its correct, right? Why would someone hold a view they knew was wrong?

    I’m not sure whether the brain post-hoc tries to rationalise some truth into a belief, or whether it convinces us prior to the fact that it is the truth, and we incorporate that view as part of our “true world view”. It takes a lot of work to admit to oneself that one was wrong, but this is a private event, done in a way as not to diminish our social standing or our image.

    This is the result of a brain which was wired to compete in a social environment, to deal with other humans in a society for resources, status, position and reproductive opportunities. In this respect, cheering for your ‘team’ is a way of signalling support, and gaining acceptance. Truth be damned. What makes me look good?

  12. Gaston_D

    I think this is called confirmatory bias. Confirmatory bias is the basic mode of human thinking. People’s minds are pretty funny. People don’t believe what is true. People could care less what is true. To most people, “truth” means “whatever statements make me feel good or support my ideology.” These feel-good statements become “facts.” Falsehood or lies means “whatever statements make me feel bad or contradict my ideology.” These feel-bad statements become “lies.” This is really the way that the human mind operates. Most people I know think this way.

    That just tells us most people you know have a well functioning brain and a healthy psyche.
    There is only three things they can’t be: real serious scholars, artists, and philosophers. Which doesn’t mean they can’t be lauded, popular scholars, artists, and philosphers; actually, it means about the contrary, as real serious scholars artists philosophers can’t be exalted in their own age (as you say, truth is enemy #1, in any place, at any time. But forbidden truths change from age to age — as they do from place to place —, thus deserved glory will be awarded in the first, or second at worst, following age).

    That aside, what organ of the body works unlike the brain?
    They all serve nature’s ends: survival, reproduction, comfort, and power gaining and holding.
    That is the only purpose of the organs in our body, and the brain happens to be one (albeit you can hear people wondering whether it be a muscle, instead of an organ, lol).

    Who is the philosopher? It is whomever has a disease: he lacks the proclivity to ease and comfort that is an essential feature of the normal psyche.
    This means he lack vanity too. “Philosopher” means Philos (friend, or lover) or sofia (knowledge, wisdom).

    From J. Eysenck to Nobel prize James Watson, Socrates to Alfred Cortot, Leopardi to Goethe, Zeno of Elea (he, and other brave philosophers like him were smeared as “sophists” — subtle liars, that was —, why? Because they kind of stole the ground for all illusions that the thinkers of the time willed to build, and they did, starting from Plato. But can Achilles reach the tortoise? Can the arrow hit the target it was shot at? No, they cannot, no matter how disconcerting it is) to Charles Darwin, Beethoven to Schoenberg, Benedetti Michelangeli to Rachmaninoff. They were all philosophers.
    Their job was to tell what the others who shared their wits had no intention in the slightest of hearing, and be denigrated, arrested, tormented, or merely ignored as a consequence. Also, to be envied.
    The next centuries are their best friends. The part of the mind we call “heart” of any other one who denies themselves ease and comfort but seeks truth is their house.

    Most humans think this way. This is the way humans think. Just get used to it. I have known people who have gifted to genius IQ’s from 130-150, and they thought this way as much as anyone. I do not really think that smart people are any more open-minded than anyone else. Smart people are prone to the same bullshit thinking that everyone else is.

    There it comes, IQ.
    It’s easy to get the expectation that more intelligent people will be more prone to the disease of will-for-truth (which requires, I have to remember, the anti-natural rejection of comfort, sense of power, praise from society, and all mundane rewards).

    IQ is needed, seems to me. IQ is the bricks the disease will make its buildings from. You don’t expect to see someone who has a 90 or lesser IQ to find out “marriage” is a contract, or why it was put in place and whom and what it is meant to serve.
    IQ is necessary, but it is not enough; it needs to be paired with the disease.

    Now, why is the disease so rare? Well, evolution. Thirst for truth, and inability to transfigure it into something not too disruptive of the healthy humane neurotypical illusions, burden their bearer’s life heavy. First of all, such a person is likely not to find a mate for reproduction.
    It complicates all aspects of life. Let’s not forget that actual complete sincerity renders human relationships unfeasible. Not only outside of family, not at all.
    This regards even the two most in love of lovers.

    Buttering, threatening and rewarding, and trade: social relationships (where a society is any group consisting of more than one person).

    See William Shockley’s biography, Broken Genius: the Raise and Fall of William Shockley.
    One reviews observed how ‘This informed and candid biography asks, ‘Why did a man so brilliant deliberately destroy himself?” ‘.
    Philosophers know why; the others can’t.

    Humans just can’t deal with ambiguity and grey areas. It causes anxiety and makes them wonder if their views are really correct. Are the good guys really the good guys? Are the bad guys really the bad guys? Am I rooting for the right team? These thoughts are confusing and cause anxiety, so most people don’t want to think them. So they do the Manichean thing and avoid all of the confusing uncertainty.

    Well, I am sure you have noticed how unclear, or — worse yet! — fathomless matters are defined obscure. This in itself betrays how they are feared.

    You’ll find all what unsettles humans expressed by metaphors involving dusk.
    And all of that starts from the ultimate dusk, that of death (The sun has always been a symbol of life, the night, with its sun-less sky, of death).
    When humans believe all of a topic is known, they feel they own it.
    “I know thus I am.” If something can’t be known, it’s uncomfortable.
    If nothing can be known, it’s ever so uncomfortable and scary.

    You, Zeno and Gorgias, had better shut up and not bother the rest of us any more. Liars, non-philosophers, sophists!
    Of course we can know things, and prospectively we can know everything.
    Can’t you see, there, up yonder, the Empireum, alive with dancing Ideas; the Nine Spheres of the sky; the Son, Father and Holy Spirit; and then, the most trusty of all, Reason!

    Shut up you liars, you sophists… don’t throw our triumphing overboard!…

    (A good book on the question: The Soul of the Marionette, by John N. Gray.)

  13. Gaston_D

    Plus, with respect to the 130-150 kind of people Twitter is replete with: if there is no right thing… how can I be right? How can I be in, a better-of-the-others?

    And how can be those who obstacle my grabbing power, or disturb my narcissism, not be really, completely, indubitably wrong, awful, as reproachable and low in the social and intellectual ladder as I must be high?

    So, Lindsay, you see why right and wrong things can’t be done without ever, seriously🙂. Certainly not by those occupying the shop windows and whose primary need is to be validated.

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