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​Selective Perception and Confirmation Bias

​Selective Perception and Confirmation Bias

Selective Perception and Confirmation Bias.

There are two harmful mental habits that many fall into, which have the effect of distorting judgement and therefore people's reactions to events. These habits are selective perception and confirmation bias.

Selective Perception

This is the act of focusing one's attention onto a small, narrow field of the environment, to the exclusion of other things. The effect of this is to exclude from one's mind many other relevant factors, which in reality are connected to the situation, but are never identified or acknowledged.

Selective perception is like looking at the world through a long narrow tube. The field of perception is reduced to a small circle and everything else is blanked out. The result is tunnel vision and a loss of relevant information.

The counter measure is simply NOT to do this. We need to ensure that we feed all the factors that are relevant, but peripheral, into the "mental computer".

Then we must also be wary of confirmation bias.

Confirmation Bias

This is the act of accepting only that information that corresponds and supports our existing beliefs.

It means rejecting information or evidence that contradicts our existing beliefs.

For example, imagine a person who believes that Donald Trump is terrible (or terrific); then confirmation bias would be the act of ignoring, disbelieving or distorting any information that may indicate the opposite.

Confirmation bias is like feeding information through a sieve that passes on only certain kinds of data and stops all others. The consequence is that we become dogmatic, stubborn and impossible to reason with. And the consequence of that is that we lose a lot.

The countermeasure is simply NOT to do this. We need to remain always open to the possibility that the opposing view may have at least some merit.

Consider Other Opinions

The three questions we should use, when considering a view that opposes our current opinion are:

  1. Is it possible that this opposing view is at least partially true?
  2. If yes, then which parts of the opposing argument may be partially true?
  3. And how would we test it?

"Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either." Aesop

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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