How Can You Avoid Your Confirmation Bias? {Bias Day 1}

What is Confirmation Bias?

Confirmation bias is listening only to what we already believe, what we agree with. It is seeking out information that confirms what we think already.

If we come across information that is different from our pre-existing ideas, we say it’s false and automatically ignore it.

Confirmation Bias

Here’s an example.

If I already believe masks won’t help against contracting COVID-19, I won’t read or consider the most current CDC guidelines that advise me to wear a mask.

Or vice versa. (I do believe masks work, btw.)

Why does this happen?

Our brains naturally want to take the easiest path. It conserves energy.

And the easiest path? Stick with what we already know. It’s a lot of work to think things through. Why waste mental energy trying to change our mind when we already *know* the answers anyway?

Why is confirmation bias bad?

Confirmation bias prevents us from unlearning wrong things and relearning correct things. It keeps us from updating our knowledge when more correct data comes along.

Ultimately, it keeps us stuck. It reduces our ability to accept new evidence. It prevents us from understanding reasonable arguments and changing our minds when we need to.

How can we avoid confirmation bias?

1. Be aware that confirmation bias exists.

Understand that we are inherently biased against new information. It doesn’t mean we’re bad; it means we’re human.

2. Seek out new information.

Look for ways to challenge what you already think. Proactively investigate and engage new information, experiences, and viewpoints. Give them a fair hearing. 

3. Talk to people outside your circle.

Gather information from a wide range of sources, not just those you normally peruse. Listen to what others are saying. Hear their stories. 

4. Play devil’s advocate

Get someone to play devil’s advocate with you to test what you currently believe. Are there holes in your thinking? If not, great. Maybe you’ve been right all along.

But stay open to truth so you can see it when it presents itself. Don’t fight against something just because it’s different from what you once believed. 

How did Jesus handle it?

Jesus faced a huge challenge with the Jewish people when he arrived on earth. They were already steeped in centuries of believing that they only were “right.” When Jesus introduced new wineskins, a new command, a new way of living, many of his listeners automatically tuned out.

So Jesus often used stories to wake people out of their confirmation biases. He taught by engaging their imaginations. He helped them see from a different vantage point so they could open their minds to accept the truths he was bringing instead of refusing to let go of their old thoughts. 

And he brought them new experiences to rattle the old ways of thinking. His miracles were mind-blowing, creating space for new ways of thinking. Even still, many refused to accept his new ideas.  

As we live in the new opportunities he brings us and see his miracles of grace around us, may we open our minds to new ways of experiencing him and discovering truth. 

It’s hard to see something different than what we already believe. How do you keep an open mind? Share in the comments.

You are on Day 1 of the series: “How to Uncover Hidden Biases.”

Uncover Hidden Biases

Previous: Introduction to the series

Next: Comfort Bias {Bias Day 2}
“I Don’t Want to Leave My Comfort Zone”

15 thoughts on “How Can You Avoid Your Confirmation Bias? {Bias Day 1}

  1. Gail

    Interesting post. I’d say there’s a lot more confirmation bias than there used to be. Maybe it’s a sign of intolerance and impatience during troubled times. #anythinggoes

  2. Anita Ojeda

    This is soooo good and I’m so excited that you’re writing about it! I confess that my confirmation bias is my belief that I’m ‘not racist’—until about a year ago, I really believed this. Now I understand micro aggressions and that while I don’t wave Confederate flags, I’m not as anti racist as I thought I was. It hasn’t been a comfortable journey, but it’s been a good one!

  3. Theresa Boedeker

    I think curiosity about others and what they think helps us listen to other opinions. It can be hard to not argue or convince the other person they are wrong, so trying to not take what they say personally helps. This is harder if the person is a family member or close friend. Confirmation bias is something we all fall into, and if we say we don’t, well, my point exactly. 🙂

  4. Martha Jane Orlando

    I do believe what I believe, Lisa, especially when it comes to Jesus and God’s Word. But, I’m always curious about other people’s opinions and points of view. I will listen to them and do my best to keep an open mind and heart. We don’t learn and grow unless we put our biases to the test.

  5. Nancy Ruegg

    My hesitancy to believe some viewpoints most often occurs when no facts and/or sources are presented to prove their points. Even then, how do we know what we’re seeing and reading is the truth? We’ve been lied to again and again, and it’s getting more and more difficult to fact-check.

    1. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

      Nancy, when the issue is a scientific one (for example, when someone says “it’s an untested new theory” that masks prevent virus transmission) I go to and search some key words. A search there will get you mostly actual research published in journals (although it’s not perfect) whereas regular Google may bring up a lot of blogs and other sources that aren’t necessarily well-informed.

      Sometimes I’ve been surprised by what I learn!

        1. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

          Nancy, sometimes political concerns can be resolved with a regular Google search. For example, a friend recently said it was ridiculous to be talking about the need for paid sick leave to combat coronavirus because paid sick leave is a “standard” benefit for employees–meaning that in his own experience as a person who did not hold a job until after graduating from college, all his jobs had offered paid sick leave. I did a quick search and sent him a link to an article explaining that over 1/4 of American jobs have no paid sick leave, that part-time jobs are much less likely to offer benefits than full-time, and that many retail and food-service employers purposely hire people for slightly less than full-time hours so they don’t have to pay benefits–thus, the people handling your groceries and take-out food are likely to be coming to work sick, which puts everyone at risk! His first response was that he “doesn’t know” anyone who doesn’t have paid sick leave so it must be a “regional difference”; another few seconds on Google found me an article about his state explaining that lack of paid sick leave is an even bigger issue there than in the USA overall. Sometimes our biases are affected by who we know well enough to ask them about their workplace benefits….

          1. Nancy Ruegg

            My concerns reach even beyond the pandemic. I’m reading an excellent book, Live Not by Lies, by Rod Dreher. He borrowed the title from an essay by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who warned us decades ago of where America was heading. Dreher has interviewed many immigrants from former Communist nations. What they see happening in America reminds them of what happened in their countries as totalitarianism began to infiltrate their cultures. Included in the back of the book are eight pages of notes, allowing the reader to explore further, and learn for herself the truth of what Dreher writes.

          2. Becca @ The Earthling's Handbook

            Nancy, a great way to avoid confirmation bias when you’ve finished a book that has given you a lot of ideas that seem correct, is to go to Amazon and read the one-star reviews of the book. Sure, sometimes reviewers are spouting arguments that are themselves hogwash, but other times you will find pointers to alternative sources that the author of the book would never have cited because they don’t confirm his bias.

  6. Jennifer

    “So Jesus often used stories to wake people out of their confirmation biases. He taught by engaging their imaginations. He helped them see from a different vantage point so they could open their minds to accept the truths he was bringing instead of refusing to let go of their old thoughts.” So. Good. I hadn’t thought about it this way but yes – engaging people’s imaginations is the best way to help them see things from another perspective. It’s far more helpful than telling them they’re wrong. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

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