Confirmation bias occurs when a person believes that the situations and experiences they continually run into, reaffirm their persepctive on their place in the world, and their preconceived beliefs or practices.
Case in point: When a person looks at the amount in their paycheck every week and mutters “ Well, I guess we’ll always be middle class.”
Or, when a person tells another before a difficult decision, or contlict, “Well, you had to know that Bob was going to react that way.”
Confirmation bias occurs because we want reassurance that the stories we tell ourselves are the only way reality could possibly be organized. This is why we emotionally, psychologically and somtimes even physically, resist when we are confronted by a different outcome someone else has experienced in the same situation. The fact of the matter is, we are in charge of our own stories—and the stories that we tell ourselves—but we often don’t believe it.
This dovetails with locus of control.
Based in studies and research from the 1950’s, locus of control says that some people believe they are in control of their lives, and other people believe outside forces determine the direction of their lives and their decision making processes.
People with a high internal locus of control believe the world is something they control.
People with a high external locus of control, believes the world controls them.
Confirmation bias reinforces the stories of both personality types: If I believe that I’m in charge of my destiny, then I will continually tell myself the ” I’m In Charge Story.” But if I believe that destiny is in charge of me, then I will continually tell myself the “I’m Not In Charge Story.”
Most often, when things are going well, confirmation bias and locus of control concerns become secondary to a good time. But in a difficulty, confrontation or a conflict around things that matter, confirmation bias and locus of control (both internal and external) can serve as drivers that both intitiate and continue the conflict spiral.
Perceptions, stories and triggers are the fuel in the car of conflict situations, and the only person who can alter the fuel successfully is you. Here are four challenge questions for determining your conflict story:
- What did I learn about difficulty, confrontation, control and conflict from my family?
Family is the world’s first organizational structure. And many of us learned the wrong lessons from those in charge. But the real issue is that we keep confirming the same lessons repeatedly with others.
- What did I learn about control over my environment when I left the home?
Formal schooling in (at least in the United States) begins at around 4 or 5. This is when true confusion sets in, and when uncomfortable questions get asked about “reality”—and sometimes hushed up.
- What messages have I had reinforced through my friends, associates and even the media I chose to consume?
There is a reason that many individuals with high internal locuses of control, refuse to watch the news, choose their friends carefully and are elitist about companies to whom they decide to give their money, time and talent.
- What messages am I sending out to the world that are reinforcing difficulty, confrontation, control and conflict stories that are no longer relevant to my experience?
If you have succeeded in overcoming a poor story, or have moved the needle on your locus of control, revisiting old stories that are no longer relevant is the surest way to experience the same things over again.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org