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Unpacking My Biases

Unpacking My Biases

“When you’re more aware of the way you think, you can take action to use positive situations to your advantage, and re-shape the negative ones. The goal is to think positively, regardless of the situation, and make a conscious effort to see opportunities instead of obstacles.” [Quote found at www.mindtools.com]

Bias definition: Prejudice (preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience) in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another.

RecentIy, I took a quiz on confirmation biases. Confirmation bias is a term defined as “the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories”. This is also known as selective collection of evidence. During this quiz, I was shown a series of 3 numbers, of which I had to figure out the pattern. I played with ideas for a bit until I knew I had it. Next, I was shown more numbers, in series of 3. I had to pick which group of numbers followed the rule i had figured out. I got every answer right, even though most of the ones I didn’t pick were actually correct too. I over-analyzed the “rule” by only thinking about the first bit of information I gained.

After receiving my results from the confirmation bias quiz, as short as it was, my mind was opened. I was not expecting to be labeled as having a “high confirmation bias” but when I stopped to reflect on it, it really showed me how “in the box” I was thinking while taking the quiz. My quiz results also reminded me about how easy it can be to take information and use it to the advantage of my point even though a bit of deep research, and, sometimes, even just open-minded thinking can take me further and demonstrate something different. I absolutely took the original evidence I thought I had discovered in the beginning of the quiz and applied it to the rest of my questions/answers, even though other answers would have been correct, as I discovered by the end. I came up with a mildly complex rule in order to come up with my answers, when the actual rule was much more simple.

I found myself reflecting also about the “Bandwagon Effect,” which is a psychological phenomenon in which people do something primarily because other people are doing it, regardless of their own beliefs, which they may ignore or override. The bandwagon effect is something that I can personally relate to in my life. I feel like the entire time I was growing, many of my traditions were based on what everybody else did. I thought these traditions were “the way”, without ever giving them much deeper thought. For example, I’ve celebrated American holidays my entire life, without having real knowledge of *why*, or doing any research to see if these traditions aligned with my soul purpose and individual identity.

Now, I see that many of them don’t benefit me personally in the ways that I was previously told they did. Today I have my own life celebrations that serve me in much more meaningful ways, and I enjoy doing research on holidays and celebrations all around the world. The bandwagon effect is surely a strong one and has had a very large impact on my life from determining how and what I eat, what style of clothing I wear, to what I do in my spare time. I always wanted to feel accepted, although risking my own truth for the truth and habits of others eventually wore me out. This ended up separating me from things and people and places in much harsher ways. It can still be hard to follow my solid truth when people around me are doing and saying totally different things, but I try to remember that I don’t have to “fit in” where I just don’t fit in. We are all special and can all get along, even with different and opposing lifestyles.

Through deeper thinking and introspection, I have discovered so much more about myself and my own interests and I can use so much more of my time in meaningful ways, rather than tagging along with people and places that just don’t flow well. I enjoy discovering and rediscovering myself every moment in order to continuously find new adventures in life. I stay open to new ideas, people, and places, yet remember that I don’t have to subject to anything I don’t truly want to.

My quiz results also indicated that I have a high negativity bias. A negativity bias is the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than do neutral or positive things. In other words, something very positive will generally have less of an impact on a person’s behavior and cognition than something equally emotional but negative. This one hit home with me. I can absolutely relate to the belief that something heavy and negative will affect me more than something light and positive.

I believe that one reason that a negative situation will affect someone more than an equally emotional/intense positive situation is due to the fact that we all truly want and need good things and think it is the way life should be --- good. It is important for all of us to remember that when we experience the positive, we can learn and grow and when we experience the negative, we can also learn and grow. In retrospect, I have found that the negative things in my life have helped me appreciate the positive things, and the positives have helped me overcome the negatives. I now have appreciation for all of my experiences because, looking back, it all shaped me and I made it through everything loving myself more than I ever have before.

Thanks for reading, Sarah

PS. You can take the Confirmation Bias Quiz (referenced throughout this blog) here! http://quiztoday.org/tag/confirmation-bias/




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