“Walking slow is fine”: Confirmation Bias issue??

Posted: March 7, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

As me and my couple of friends started our morning walk today (my 15th consecutive day at it, by the way!), one of them mentioned that he has read a report that says that “it is not important to walk briskly, but just to walk is good enough”. This was quite contrary to what I had read and heard earlier, that it was important to build up the aerobic exercise to a certain pace, for it to be really effective.

But these words sounded nice to me. Brisk walking is more painful. Not that I amble on a morning walk, but I am not doing a real “fast and brisk walk”. Not just yet, anyway.

Walking pace not being so critical, then, sounded like music to my ears.

Except that, I had just heard an interesting podcast, the same morning, prior to going for the walk. And this was on the subject of “confirmation bias”.

What is confirmation bias?

Here’s the Wikipedia definition of it:

“Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true.”

Did I want to believe that the pace of the walk was not critical, because it served my purpose (of not needing to walk that fast) well?  Or was it a confirmation bias?!

How often do we fall in the confirmation bias trap?

How closely is this concept connected to having an open mind, allowing new thoughts, even thoughts that are contradictory to one’s own beliefs or convictions?

In fact, I have noticed that the more successful a person becomes, the more convinced he gets, about his own convictions. Which is sad, in a way. For the world is so dynamic today, that without keeping an open mind, one stands a huge risk to get outdated!

I have been to many meeting with senior folks, where the concerned CXO (typically) is ‘listening’ to you, but ‘not really listening’. His mind is already made up, and he wants to ‘do it his way’. And it may not even be an action oriented meeting. I have had discussions at parties and at clubs, on a variety of subjects, and you can clearly see how for many people (and this is especially true for senior folks and folks who have met with prior success), the mind is virtually closed. And they live in a world of denial, and stand a serious risk of becoming dinosaurs in this new era.

I want to challenge my own convictions every now and then. Especially when alternate thoughts or ideas come in. I want to be sure that I have an open mind, I am receptive to new ideas, and open to experiment as well.

I don’t want to carry too much of a ‘confirmation bias’. I want to try and speed up my walking too, no matter the pain involved 🙂

What about you? If you examine yourself closely and honestly, do you see yourself succumbing to the confirmation bias? Sometimes, often, rarely, never…? Do share your views.

  1. priyanka says:

    similar thinking people strike a chord and become closer friends and all that. Different ones get sort of left out… and I have always wondered since the friendship is based on similar thinking how strong is it really? Cause thoughts change and more over is that the most important aspect of a person their thoughts?
    I guess this is also related to confirmation bias, the people feel more comfortable with similar thinking people.

    • Sanjay Mehta says:

      You are right, Priyanka..
      We like people like us, as we are challenged lesser.. !
      As friends, or bosses, or subordinates..
      Then, if we make mistakes, we will keep making those, and we will not even know the better..
      Instead, having different kinds of people around us, enables us to see different points of view, including those which are conflicting to our point of view..

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