Confirmation bias

I attend a “Marriage Enrichment” Sunday School class with my husband, and yesterday, we learned about confirmation bias.

I repeat: we learned about confirmation bias at church.

In other words, we learned about the mind’s tendency to see what it wants to see, and how to exploit that.

I don’t think I was sitting there grinning — the irony!  how it tickles! — but I might have been.  At one point the instructor (who knows I am an atheist) glanced in my direction and did a small “Oh shit!”-double-take, but didn’t say anything.  He’s a good man, and he’s wise about many things, but I was sorry to learn that although he is very well informed about science, he chooses to remain a young-earth creationist– not because he finds the evidence more compelling, but because it fits with his faith better.  That’s sad to me.

But yeah.  Confirmation bias.  That’s when you are running late to work and you’re already having a bad day, and you are certain that you miss every single light even though you hit a few green ones.  And then, what do you call the fallacy where you attribute an event to an actor even though there was no actor?  Like, you conclude that the reason the lights are turning red because a) Satan is attacking you, or b) God is turning those lights red to save you from an accident that would have somehow happened if you hadn’t had to stop for the red light.

How much more useful would it be to learn about logical fallacies and how to think scientifically and logically?  I should start a humanist Sunday School. 

I would like to add that there were no typos in this post even before I ran the spellcheck.


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5 Responses to “Confirmation bias”

  1. Temaskian Says:

    Hmm… what has confirmation bias in church to do with marriage enrichment?

    • notreallyalice Says:

      It was a little bit “power of positive thinking”-y, but sensible enough. If you focus on your spouse’s bad qualities, you won’t notice the good things; you’ll only notice what you’re expecting to see.

  2. atimetorend Says:

    Congrats on the typing accuracy, that’s a lot of words too. It’s an awesome feeling when you type something really fast and don’t make errors. I love typing. I took an antidepressant for a time and on the second day found I could type *extremely* quickly and accurately, like as fast as I could ever type if I cut loose and lucked out in not making any errors.

    It is funny how Christians can feel inhibited when they know you do not believe what they believe. It is fine for them to make a statement like that when they know nobody in the room will challenge it, or even think critically about it. That’s probably true for all of us, but especially so for Christians who have to train themselves to avoid critical thought in so many instances.

    How great that you made the guy think about his teaching just by your presence in the room.

  3. atimetorend Says:

    Yeah, good thing it passed, that could be rough. I’m picturing pulling out a calculator to add single digit numbers. “Yeah, so I’ll be over in an hour, let’s see, it’s 1 now, hold on, let me grab my calculator, yeah, I’ll be there at 2…”

    I’ll take Power of Speedtyping over Inability to Add any day. Kind of like you got kryptonite.

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