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Your Confirmation Bias Is Ruining Everything

Your Confirmation Bias Is Ruining Everything

In One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Randall McMurphy is committed to a mental institution because – in his words – “I fight too much and I fuck too much.” Been there, buddy. Anyway, he becomes confounded that some of his fellow loonies adhere to the rigid structure of the institution because they were afraid to go outside and enjoyed having Nurse Ratchet tell them what to do. At one point, he tries to pick up a massive sink, just to see if he could. He fails, but the point is, “at least I tried.”

At the end of the film, Big Chief picks up the sink, throws it through a window and escapes out into the real world.

Fast forward to the medium in which you are reading this nonsense. The Internet is a magical place that connects people around the world with the dead gorilla memes they want and need. People are able to work remotely, manage their investment portfolios, check the weather and ogle naked people all before they get out of bed in the morning. Social media alone has connected old friends, and provided procrastinators like yourselves with the outlets they need to not work.

It’s also inspired thousands of think pieces on what hyper-connection and social proliferation has meant to us as a people. Buckle the fuck up, Betsy, because you’re in for another one.

The World Wide Web has given a voice to everyone in the entire world. A miracle of this nature can be used as a force for good, whether it is organizing peaceful revolutions like in Egypt or protesting in favor of democracy in Hong Kong. The downside is that some people don’t deserve a voice.

Online communities exist for every type of interest. Some users have found support and a sense of belonging where they otherwise might have continued feeling isolated and alone. But for every support group saving people from an eating disorder, there is also the bronies. I mean, Jared Fogel was only caught because he was PART OF A KID-FOGELING COMMUNITY.

The problem here is that when people find support and communities that make them feel comfortable, they gravitate to them. We call this confirmation bias. When people hear or read something they like, they tend to believe those words over anything with actual empirical data to support it. For instance, if someone says “Cowboys are trash and the Eagles are the best,” that person is clearly unhinged and likely a murderer. No matter how rational your argument, you will never get through to them because they probably are also reading an Eagles homer blog that supports their worldview.

The danger here is not just that Tomi Lahren has a job or that Ken Bone is what people take away from presidential debates. The danger is that when we as a people stop challenging our preexisting notions, when we stop taking in new information and critically thinking, our brains get lazy, and we quit trying. Things like macroeconomics, race issues, global climates and humanitarian crises are supposed to be hard. They’re supposed to take ingenuity, creativity, hard work and hurt feelings. If you agree with everything that you read or watch, then you’re not really growing as a person. Comfort is a crutch.

So there are two types of people: the inmates that need someone else to make their decisions for them, and the McMurphys and Chiefs who are out there banging hookers on fishing boats and smashing their way to freedom. It takes hard work and might even result in you getting a lobotomy, but it’s the type of behavior that makes us all better.

Image via Shutterstock

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Icehouse

International sailing champion and friend to most wolves. Except Larry, he knows what he did.

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