Your Brain’s Shortcut to protect itself
I’m sure you know by now, that we humans, do crazy things. Any studying of psychology and the sub-conscious will quickly show you this. We do things that, in hindsight don’t even make sense. Like-at all. One thing we do that has always fascinated me is called confirmation Bias. By definition it is:
The tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses. -Webster Dictionary
We try and seek out information that confirms our beliefs about ourselves.
An example of this is when you’re home feeling lonely or bored, you might hop on Facebook and browse pictures of people having fun and being social. You want to confirm to yourself that you’re missing out and lonely. Your brain wants to match your heart, feelings, and emotions for some reason. It’s confirmation bias at work.
Likewise, when you fall in love — all you see is perfection. You don’t care about their flaws, if you notice them at all. Then all the sudden, when you fall out of love, you notice every flaw and think oh I was wrong about them, they aren’t good for me. Your perspective changes to favor and match your feelings of the moment. This happens subconsciously, all the time, day after day — to everyone.
Even your memories are affected by confirmation bias. You may not even recall events correctly. It’s as if your brain wants to be in sync with your belief system. Have you ever gotten into an argument with a lover and you both recall the fight completely different? That is a perfect example. You want to remember it in a way that favors your opinion.
So why do we do this?
You seek evidence that confirms your beliefs because being wrong sucks. Being wrong means you’re not as smart as you thought. So you end up seeking information that confirms what you already know. — Psychology Today
Turns out we all have a little bit of narcissism in us. It feels emotionally uncomfortable to be — wrong.
When you have a firm foundation of a belief, something that threatens or goes against it in a favorable light, has been shown to physically pain us and increase anxiety. That’s right, there an actual physical change in our bodies to this! Amazing.
There have been studies done that show the pain center of our brain actually lights up when we are confronted with news that conflicts negatively with our belief system. Say a politician you like does something unethical, your brain will be upset over this. It conflicts with your belief system. Basically, your body is always trying to be at harmony within itself. Your mind, emotions, heart, and soul, try to connect. Often these parts of ourselves are at odds, and that is when confirmation bias kicks in to fill the gaps.
Your brain does this to protect itself. This applies to both your physical and psychological self. When opposing facts challenge your identity, your brain perceives the psychological threat and protects you as if it was an actual physical threat. — Psychology Today
I also learned that our brains do this as a sort of shortcut. Because there is simply too much information for our brains to have time to sort through it all. We have to make sense of the complex and complicated world around us, and with work, school, family life, sometimes there simply isn’t enough time to analyze and make sense of each topic or person we are confronted with. Enter confirmation bias. It’s a shortcut to protect your identity and make you feel safe.
How complex we are.
How very fascinatingly flawed. I always find the way our brains operate to be so interesting. They are more vast and complicated organs.
So what can you do with this information?
You won’t have time to think about everything, after-all that’s why you revert to confirmation bias to begin with, but perhaps approach conversations with an open mind. Don’t be so quick to judge.
Surround yourself with different types of people. Don’t label yourself. Be well-rounded and willing to hear different types of opinions on politics, religion, and life in general. This is a sign of intelligence not passivity.
It takes incredible mental strength to challenge your own deep-seated beliefs. Stand by your convictions, of course, but just realize some of that just may be rooted in confirmation bias. Be open. After-all. life is full of the gray stuff. We wish it were simple. This is right. That is wrong. It doesn’t always work that way. That’s why it’s good to be aware. Self-aware. Of your own mental limits and capacity for human error. This can only strengthen you, and make you a more well-rounded, empathetic, and even wonderful human being.