Updated: Jan 22
Avoiding Confirmation Bias in Political Decision-Making
Confirmation Bias, from a psychological perspective, is the tendency to take in only the information that supports our beliefs, while discarding any information that is discrepant or contradictory. Confirmation bias is a topic that I teach in college psychology classes, but it has much broader applicability. Specifically in the case of politics, confirmation bias operates by people remaining convinced that “my side” could not possibly have any negative components, while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge any potentially positive information about the “other side.”
While it is hugely important to try to avoid confirmation bias in any set of our beliefs or decisions, at this point in our country’s history with the intense political polarization, it is imperative that each of us consider if we are irrationally and emotionally, almost blindly, accepting only the information that fits into what we already believe. This confirmation bias can infect all of us, no matter how degreed we are. Even as a licensed doctoral psychologist, which hopefully implies a certain degree of intellectual objectivity, I must try to avoid this bias myself. Therefore, I will not endorse comments or opinions that are insulting to anyone or contain just emotional rhetoric, on either side of the political spectrum.
Even when others around us are behaving without careful judgment and integrity, we should continue to conduct ourselves appropriately, using rational morality and clear thinking as the basis for political decisions. The current state of our country is worrisome to me, because emotion-based confirmation bias could substantially affect election outcomes. It could further affect the aftermath of the election, such that the factions do not re-integrate, as they have deemed each other the enemy. Whatever the results of the election, our country will need to heal and become united again, which can only happen if people recognize truth and accuracy and remove their own confirmation biases.
Editorial by H. Denise Wooten, PsyD