Confirmation bias defines identity or ideology in a very narrow way. Today, Bill Stierle and Tom dive deeper into explaining what it is all about and whether it can be applied in the common context of things or not. They talk about how Donald Trump’s ideologies are getting narrower every day and share their thoughts on congressman Justin Amash and his laws. Moreover, Bill and Tom discuss how confirmation bias can be a weapon to support the narrative you want to portray. Discover more about bias as a whole while Bill and Tom break down the different kinds of bias—from belief bias to that of being a fan.
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What Is Confirmation Bias And How Does It Apply To American Politics
Bill, I am energized and ready to talk about the strawman and then move into confirmation bias. That’s a subject that deserves a little more attention. I thought we would take a deeper dive into that.
Tom, I feel delighted to talk because it’s the impact of language and word choices that come in our direction, that reinforce messages that we already have. Instead, it’s allowing us to explore or move into beliefs and experiences that we haven’t had. It is a significant discussion to have about if you don’t know something, it’s easier to confirm what you know to be true, even though it might be false rather than to say, “Wait a minute.” I used to think of blackholes around the solar systems and around this way, but scientists tell us it’s different than what I learned. I almost feel uncomfortable breaking the bad news to people that information and knowledge keep shifting and changing. In this fast-paced world, it’s harder to have stability and certainty about things that we learned in high school. The things we learned in our early adult lives to be true, whether it was through work experience, through college or through a workplace that taught us some things.
We’re constantly staying in our belief structure that’s familiar rather than saying, “Tell me a bit more about that thing that you’re saying. Let me see if I could change or adjust to what you’re saying.” That’s what we do, we’d do a comparison to piece. I’m holding one hand up here, my left hand up and now my right hand is, “Here’s the information I have and I’m comparing it with the new information you’re giving me and I’m choosing what’s right.” Confirmation bias is that, “I am going to confirm what I already know. I am not necessarily going to include the truth that you’re telling me.”
You used a very good word in there, Bill. You said, uncomfortable. People get uncomfortable. Isn’t it human nature that a lot of people don’t like change? They want things to be consistent, stable and predictable. Opening yourself up, opening your mind up to new possibilities, new things that might change your beliefs, it’s a hard thing to do for people.
It causes all kinds of disruptions on a lot of different levels. If a human being has a lot of stability, it has a lot of comfort in their world and a lot of their needs are being met, they don’t have to focus so much on the outside battle. The battle becomes an inside battle. The more comfortable you are with your outside world, the more you need to be self-reflective. You’re not fighting the outside world, but the fight has got to come somewhere so you’ve got to point it back to your inside world. I’d rather have safety in what my beliefs are and stick with those even though I formulated them when I was a fifteen, eighteen or 21-year-old, “This is the way this first boss treated me therefore, all bosses treat me the same way.”
I’m glad you used that example because it triggered a memory in my mind.
Confirmation bias is everywhere.
I remember growing up, my parents were divorced and I was raised a lot by my grandparents. Not that my parents weren’t there, but the stability figures in my life of marriage for life and stability of the family came from both sets of my grandparents, not my parents.
Your experience with your grandparents and your parents has confirmed some things about relationships. The way relationships work and don’t work.The fear of disappointment and the uncertainty of change makes people very uncomfortable. Click To Tweet
I’ve been married for 27 years, so I don’t know what that’s worth. My grandparents were my role models. My point in bringing it up was not necessarily to be about relationships. It was about employment. You mentioned jobs and that was my issue. My grandfather worked his entire life as a civil engineer. He had full-time employment the whole time and he was of one of those generations where he worked for the whole company practically his entire career. He had a pension from that company and all that. I was raised with this belief early on that’s what you do. You get a job, you’re loyal to the company, they’re loyal to you, you stay with them forever. Talk about a bubble that bursts very quickly getting out of college. I came to learn whether I wanted to open my mind up to it or not. It was forced upon me. I remember then talking to my same grandfather about this at one point when I’m talking about a big career change decision very early in my career. He said, “That’s what I would call an agonizing reappraisal of your life and reassessment.” Making a change is not an easy thing.
The word appraisal for all those people in the housing world, to get an appraisal done on your house, to have an appraisal done on your car accident is painful. It’s something you don’t want to do because it is what it is even though, it’s a subjective opinion from the appraiser. You don’t want the bad word to come in because the appraiser comes in for your house. They say, “It’s appraised that this number.” You’re going like, “That’s $50,000 less than I thought I was going to get out of this house or $100,000 less.” Can it be pleasant? Sometimes but most of the time it’s not. It’s a disappointment because it’s lower than what we think.
The fear of disappointment and the uncertainty of change makes people very uncomfortable. I came to learn early on career-wise because for the majority of my career since I was starting out, I’d been independent. I have my own company or another or somehow, I independently consult because I came to realize early on that employment in America, there is no loyalty. People get laid off left and right. There is no real job security in having a full-time job with a corporation. I came to believe and this was the phrase that everyone’s temporary. Whether you want to see it or not or whether you believe it or not, I personally believe everyone’s temporary. You’re not going to be in a job for your whole life.
I’ll put a pause on that because what you did was put about three different learning diamonds in front of all of us. The first learning diamond is there was a belief, even a confirmed bias around companies supporting their employees for a lifetime. Coming out of the ‘40s, out of World War II into the ‘50s, there is a lot of stability with work. There is a lot of stability with housing and education and learning. There is a lot of suffering. A lot of different families had to go through with the losses of World War II. We come into the ‘50s economy. We start with a bias that this is what an American family looks like. The wife is at home, the dad goes to work and she’s taking care of two kids. That was a stark difference from the 1940s women who went to work in the war machine and the factories making the munitions. Now all of a sudden, the new image that is sold is she’s at home taking care of a kid, “My identity shifted. Now, my belief bias has moved into a direction.”
“The men are back from the war, they’ve got to take over the factory jobs. They’ve got to be the sole provider. I’ve got to take care of the kids. Two kids at least, more kids the better. Build these cul-de-sacs with communities of kids running down the street and riding their bikes and playing at the park,” and you’ve got the late ‘50s and you’ve got the early ‘60s. All of a sudden, the bias changes. The belief changes, “What’s all this constriction and monochromatic work life?” There’s a lot more freedom here. There’s a lot more creativity here. The ’60s was able to build its movement. Civil rights, all of that was able to be built on a stable economy and a stable home life.
That’s very interesting to think about.
Once a person is in a place of stability, their creative mind starts to work. They start looking at the congruency between the outside world and the inside world. Meanwhile, right there at the end of that time period, Dwight D. Eisenhower goes, “You may want to watch about the military-industrial complex.” All of a sudden, we’re in Korea, we’re in Vietnam, we’re in the next war with the next country. We need somebody to focus outside, so we’re not looking at inside values and inside beliefs around justice, fairness, equality, equanimity or choice. We’ve got this outside battle we have to deal with. Our stability has been compromised on multiple levels. Even that we crave stability, our stability is compromised, which makes it easier to hijack a person’s belief. It’s easier because they’re not thinking inside, “What do I believe in? What do I want to stand for?” They’re thinking, “We’re going to trust this leader outside us and he’s going to take us home because he’s like us.”
That makes me have a lot more respect for someone in politics. Let’s say, Justin Amash, a congressman from Michigan, who’s willing to stand up and speak against his own party. Potentially against his own future in Congress and certainly putting himself in a riskier place there, “I’ve read all 400 and whatever pages of The Mueller Report. I have directed my team to review it. We’ve all given it serious reflection and comparative to the law and guess what people? President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice. He should be impeached.” This guy is not running for president. He’s not doing this to try to compete in a presidential election against Donald Trump. He’s doing it because he seems very sincere in his views. He is confident that, “The law is the law and the president is not above the law. We need to hold him accountable.”
They immediately try to make him an outlier. That’s the first thing they did. He’s never voted behind. He’s always given Donald Trump pushback and the answer is yes. He’s been on the right side of this one. He’s supposed to be given Donald Trump a pushback. Why? He sees the fallacy and the confirmation bias that Donald Trump is selling, pushing or promoting. Donald Trump’s bias is that he’s a great leader. His bias is that wealth that he has accumulated, being able to manage, being able to adjust, being able to spend, being able to lose is the weight that I would like people to see. I want people to see that wealth equals respect and recognition. You’re on the self-worth side. You’re voting for the smartest person in the room, “I’m a stable genius.” It’s confirming the fallacy. We talked about this at the strawman, but it’s worth mentioning. When he says the sentence, most people don’t know that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. The person hears that and says to themselves, “I knew that. I’m smarter than most people.” Notice that the fallacy doesn’t mean you’re smarter than most people.
He said most people don’t know it and you know it. Therefore, I must be smarter than most people.
My self-worth is getting confirmed that I’m smarter than most people. Who am I going to vote for, the person that called me smarter than most people?
I’m voting for that guy. He called me smart. My vote is a smart vote. This is a type of adjustment of a person’s perception. Broadening their perspective to the fallacy of information and arguments that confirmed their currently held belief that they’ve been screwed. You can’t fight against technology. Americans are producing way more than we did 30, 40 years ago. We’re producing it with a third of the workforce. The biases and the biased belief that’s being sold is immigrants have taken those jobs. That’s not what the truth is. The truth is that robots and mechanization have taken two-thirds of the jobs. You’ve been eliminated by a piece of machinery. How do you make a case to get a person’s vote and let a piece of machinery got their job? Not an immigrant, but I’ll blame it on the immigrant.
You perpetuate this belief that it is, in fact, the immigrants that are stealing the jobs rather than the technology, the robotics, the mechanization, the software and the AI that keeps being developed.
You will continue to lose your jobs unless you make technology upgrades inside your brain. You’ve got to start matching technology until you choose not to. My dad said at 85, “Bill, I’m not going to learn anymore on the computer now. I think I’m going to live my days this way.” I looked at him and go like, “He made a conscious choice not to spend his last five years learning anything.” It’s a good idea. If that’s your choice and it’s overwhelming and frustrating, wake up, have breakfast, go sit out on the porch with your wife or go to a walk to the beach with her. Do those things.
If that’s what makes you happy, absolutely.
If somebody does that in their 40s, I’m not going to learn any more about technology. There are a few consequences that are coming their way unless they’re sitting on a pile of dough.
If I can pivot the conversation slightly, what are become the consequences of people that are under a severely biased belief? For example, the town hall Justin Amash had in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the media afterward is speaking to certain audience members. He’s speaking to his conservative Republican constituents here in this town hall. He’s telling them the truth about The Mueller Report and what it means. None of them in the audience had read the whole thing. They had only heard what they’d been told. This woman says, “I watched conservative news. I had no idea there was anything negative about the president in The Mueller Report.” She was awestruck.The more comfortable you are with your outside world, the more you need to be self-reflective. Click To Tweet
She’s totally awestruck because the curtain has been pulled away. She sees that something has taken place. Here is her representative telling her these things. The mistake has been made by Joe Biden, Mark Warner, Kamala Harris, and by Pete Buttigieg. The thing that they’re making mistake is that they’re making it an all or none narrative. That’s in Donald Trump’s favor. All of these things are a witch hunt. He’s owning that space. My requests would be from a language perspective is you take the worst one of those ten obstruction pieces and you amplify it altogether. You amplify one of them. Which one? You amplify the worst one.
You make the nitty-gritty about it known. The context, the where, the when, who was involved.
You go after the specifics. Let them get on defense a little bit because the offense is all or none right now. It’s all of these ten things that are enough to impeach. That’s not what you need. You need one thing to impeach. If I asked Bernie Sanders and said, “Bernie Sanders, would you be willing to amplify that the first half of the report, part one, that the Russians did meddle in the election?” Amplify that.
Isn’t that you said in the past episode, the candidate that latches on to what I’m going to do? I’m going to solve that problem of Russian meddling in our elections were Donald Trump’s running as far away from that one as he can.
It points out that he is running away from it. Bernie Sanders or whatever candidate wants to pick this up, Cory Booker could easily pick this one up and say, “He needs to be impeached because here’s what happened in the first part of the report. He is not doing his job to protect Americans in the future. There have been no efforts by this administration to keep it from happening again. In fact, there have been preventative efforts from it.” They’ve made it easier for them to meddle. They made it easier by their non-action. They’re not looking into the loophole.
All you campaign strategists out there who are getting this, you need to pay attention to this. You’re completely right, Bill.
Proof by selected incidences is where a confirmation bias gets engaged. A selected instance might be saying, “I know that the scientists have said this thing about global warming, but in this one report it says,” and they give us selected incidents. That means all that other researches because it doesn’t fit your belief is now null and void.
Confirmation bias can be an effect of different circumstances where the news you watch, the people you listened to, your safe space you want to stay in and then it can also be used as a weapon to support your narrative you want to portray.
You’re going to disregard or downplay contrary evidence. It’s called the reduce the proportion. I want to minimalize the proportion. 87% of scientists believe them, but they’re the fake scientists. They’re not real scientists. We had the real scientists on our team because we’re smart. Remember, you’re smart because most people didn’t know that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.
That’s almost using a strawman in order to build a confirmation bias.
Can you possibly imagine that? That’s exactly what the strawman is meant to do, to scare crows away. Here’s this crow hanging in this cornfield and it’s to scare the crows away from the corn. Don’t look at this corn growing, let it grow. I put a belief in here. I’ve got this strawman that’s watching over this and you better not check my facts. Meanwhile, the corn is rotting. It’s bad corn. There’s also this other thing with confirmation bias where they do an interpretation of ambiguous information that this information is true, but it’s not fully true. That’s what another thing that works in the favor of confirmation bias to create the fallacy and take this proof of selected incidences. It’s going to still affirm my belief. It’s going to reaffirm. That person is going to get caught up and rationally create a story to contradict the real fact. There are 32 football teams in the National Football League. They’re all in different cities. These different cities, that’s their team.
Many of the teams are not very good. They’re not going to win over three or five games in a given year. They’re still going to play. Their fans will come to the stadium and sit there in the hopes that their team will win, even though the Patriots, the Rams or the Chiefs are coming in. That’s called the bias of the fan. The fan has a biased perspective. “You’re going to get tired of winning. The United States will be winning all the time.” That’s the narrative of you on the winning team by voting for me. In getting this thing to move forward to create a fan, the first thing I need to do is give them a hat with a slogan on it. Make the slogan simple and easy. Make the slogan that the other side can’t argue with, “Make America great again.”
If they criticize that, they’re like, “You don’t want to make it great?”
You don’t want to make America great again? We have some problems here. We want this philosophy, this politic, this religious slant to go in the direction, even though it has a bunch of flaws to it. “My religion is better than your religion.” Why? “My dad was in this religion. My mom was in this religion.” Did your mom or dad question some of the primary beliefs in this religion? Did they test it out? What would it be like if you’re trying to meet your need for connection and family, peace and harmony during the holidays, during a celebration and you’re the person who said, “I’m not doing that religion anymore. I’m not praying in the way you’re praying anymore. I don’t believe the way you’re believing.” Don’t you think that would be a hard, difficult thing to do?
That will be very hard to do to go against the grain, disrupt the harmony and the piece. People tend not to do that in that situation, despite their own curiosities. That’s a word that I was thinking about. When it comes to confirmation bias and people opening up their minds, the thing we talked about being uncomfortable and being hard to do, people resist change is one aspect. I think another one is a lot of people lack curiosity.
I appreciate that sentence called lack of curiosity because this is going to open us up to why bias can be so easily hijacked. Tom, your creative mind does not work well under pressure or stress. Our creativity doesn’t. When we’re under pressure or stress, what winds up happening is that we go into safekeeping mode. We do not go into the creative mode or open mind thinking. As most Americans have been forced into paycheck after paycheck, waiting to make the finish line with no hope of getting out of that cycle of things, they can’t be creative. They can’t be objective. They can’t fully engage it because they concentrate on safety. They are not concentrated on truth, reality, best case scenario. They can’t. Why? They can’t think that way. “I don’t have time for that. I have time to plop on the couch at the end of the day. I have time to go to the movies with my kids to get some form of connection with them. I can maybe do something on the weekend,” but guess what? They’re stuck with layers of connection with their technology and things like that, too with their friends online. “My friends are playing a game online. I’m not getting off this thing. Are you kidding me? I’m not going to meet the need for connection with you when I can meet the need for connection with them.”
There’s the pressure and what is the pressure? The pressure is when financial concerns are facing individuals, my safekeeping bias can’t be questioned. I don’t have time to question it, which creates all kinds of shenanigans showing up. If a person doesn’t have time to pushback, they don’t have time to rally. They don’t have time to speak up, they don’t have time to build the facts and the evidence on their side. Why is it taking so long from the impeachment stuff to get going? The populace doesn’t have time to see the depth and the scope that this impeachment is ten times worse than what Richard Nixon did.
Nobody’s talking about it. Nobody’s illuminated it. Nobody’s shining light on this and people don’t believe that yet.Our creative mind does not work well under pressure or stress. What winds up happening is we go into safekeeping mode. Click To Tweet
Once you generalized something, which they’ve done and once you pick up the generalization narrative is, there have been ten things in The Mueller Report that are items of obstruction. Tom, name one of them.
When he ordered the White House Council to go and fire Robert Mueller.
There’s one of them. He ordered it. The attorney general goes like, “That’s crazy. You can’t. This is not a business. We have laws around this thing. You can’t do that.” What they wound up doing is ignore him. If they did ignore him and they did what he said, he would be out.
If they had followed through on it, for sure.
They’re still protecting him because they are refusing to come to talk about it. They’re protecting him, which is keeping the bias in place. There’s nothing to talk about here. There’s no other way. If a piece of work, like The Mueller Report, no matter how well it’s written or how lose it’s written, the viewpoint keeps getting skewed because when it lands on something and when Robert Mueller speaks and says, “There was evidence in here that would have said he was innocent. I just can’t say he was guilty because this is not a criminal piece. We have other evidence to deal with this. This needs to be handled in a different way.”
He can’t put his thumb on the scale. Here’s what it would have sounded like, “The mechanism in the criminal justice system is not a fit for this. It would be better to serve if the impeachment process started.” He can’t put his thumb on that scale, even though that’s what he laid out, encouraged, implied. Here’s where to look. Here’s who to interview. Here’s what they said to me, “You’ve got to get them to say it openly. It’s not going to work if I write it down and tell you what it is. It doesn’t allow the president to defend or put context around it. He’s protecting the president too, but he’s more protecting the integrity of the system than he is the president.”
I get that impression. Maybe I’d say that’s my belief. Bill, where do we go from confirmation bias? What’s the next path in our journey?
The next path in our journey is going to be what is the clear ideology that we’d like to move forward with? What are the identities and the values of those identities to move forward with and then build a healthy narrative about what those identities are? When you get pushback from the other side, the candidate that does that best is going to be able to lay the case why they can be the best leader to impart that identity. We’ve got to get the ideology and the identity of America the way we’d like to see it collectively more than marginally because now it’s being defined marginally. That’s what confirmation bias does, to defined identity or ideology in a very narrow way. Every day it gets narrower. He fires another person. He doesn’t rehire anybody. The ideology keeps getting narrower on his ideology and that’s not good.
That was a great one.
Thanks a million. Thank you.
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