Politics Magazine

Confirmatory Bias: The Normative Mode of Human Thinking

Posted on the 18 August 2016 by Calvinthedog

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 gray 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.


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