Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Confirmation Bias

There are a lot of debates that take place in the world: in politics, in science, and in our personal lives. While all of these discussions are composed of many different components that merit examination to come to a resolution, I believe that the first step to success is to remove any personal biases one might have. I make this statement realizing that you may now call me captain obvious, but you should also realize that while sound in principal, it is rarely followed through in practice. Think espoused vs. enacted values. This can be attributed to a tendency called confirmation bias. It was summarized very well by Leo Tolstoy in 1897:
"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if

he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot

be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he

knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him."

What this means to me is that, no matter how well you may think you may know something, you should never stick to it just because you believe it to be true. You should always be open to discussion and willing to listen to an alternative point of view.

The world would be a lot more progressive if everyone paid attention to people like Leo Tolstoy.
Leo Tolstoy

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