Now I’m not a scientist or meteorologist, but I assume that traveling by ship to the Arctic in the dead of winter is a bad idea. It turns out that my assumption is right.
This week, Russian scientists traveling to the Arctic got stuck in the ice. Bummer. Turns out the ice cutters and rescue boats going to bail them out got in the same bind as well. So there, in the dead of winter in the Arctic, sat millions of dollars of equipment, ships, and technology surrounded by the top scientists in the world, the smartest most educated people on the planet. Did the smartest people in the world not think that they would get stuck in ice in the dead of winter in the Arctic? There must be hope for the rest of us yet.
But that’s not the irony:
Why were they up there? To study global warming.
As it turns out, even the smartest of us get foiled by what we call “confirmation bias.” What is it? It’s a nasty psychological bugger – confirmation bias is tendency for us to search for something that confirms our preconceptions. In short – if we want to prove something, we’ll probably find something to support us. Where ye looketh, there ye shall findeth. It’s particularly nasty because it clouds our ability to have decent, unbiased communication with the people we love most.
Now I can’t speak for the scientists, but it sure does seem like a silly thing to go looking for global warming in the dead of winter. Sure, I understand why they did it, but it never hurts to remind oneself that you may be wrong. Especially when it comes to our preconceptions, this is certainly true – it never hurts to remind ourselves that we may be wrong.
This month, me and the writers are focusing on the theme of “resolve” in our life, love, and families. Perhaps the greatest thing standing in the way of positive resolve is our own confirmation biases. When we begin to believe our spouse is unloving, we’ll start looking for actions that prove they are unloving. When we think that our boss hates us, we look for signs that prove it. When we think our philosophical beliefs are untouchable, we’ll scour the internet for articles that prove it is indeed untouchable. Unfortunately, hoping to confirming our negative preconceptions is like getting “stuck in the ice” – we put ourselves in a place that prohibits us from growth and maturity.
Overcoming a negative confirmation bias is easy – don’t go hunting for global warming in the Arctic during the dead of winter.
To put more plainly, we need to begin to challenge our preconceptions with opposition. If we believe our spouse is unloving and unsupportive, look for the exception to the rule – prove they are loving and supportive. If we think our boss hates our guts, prove to yourself that they actually care. If we think our philosophy on life is untouchable, then look for articles and blogs that are oppositional to it. Challenging our preconceptions will do one of two things:
- It will open our eyes to new ideas that in turn help us grow and mature.
- It will remind us that original belief was indeed correct yet will open our eyes on how to handle the situation in a more mature way.
Of course, this process is much easier said than done. Yet conquering the nasty confirmation bias gives us freedom. The first step, though, is admitting we do it, in all areas of our lives: religion and faith, at the dinner table, around the holidays, on Monday morning, and beyond. Once we admit it, we can tackle it.
Global warming might be a thing. Given the subzero temperatures around the nation this week, I have my reserved doubts. Needless to say, the weather didn’t stop a group of the world’s smartest people from trucking on up a frozen ocean in search of warming. But let’s not give them too much grief – we’ve all trucked up our own “frozen ocean” to prove our point only to get caught with our pants around our ankles.
But who says we can’t conquer it?