Why do we have inconsistent beliefs? Why do we tend to ignore conflicting information? Why are we so defensive when something challenges our beliefs? Let’s talk about that now.
Hi everyone! We are going to be discussing cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias. Two concepts we all naturally resonate with. Cognitive dissonance essentially is the state of having inconsistent thoughts and beliefs that conflict with our personal thoughts and beliefs. This means that we have our own beliefs and ideas, and when they are challenged with conflicting information that disproves our ideas, we have to rationalize the new information, which often is done via denial and rejecting the new information, thinking of it as false, even if it is the truth. Our mind is presented with a paradox where new information that we thought was false turns out to be true. It’s like we are telling ourselves lies and believing them.
Likewise, confirmation bias is when presented with new information that conflicts with our beliefs that we see it as a reason why our belief is correct and why the new information is of negative nature that needs to be dismissed and thrown out. What this all means is that we have a one track mind that tends to only believe what we want to believe, and when presented with other views and opinions, or simply information that conflicts with our ideas, we will do everything we can to disprove, discredit, and deny the new information coming in that we know, based on our personal beliefs, is false. It is irrelevant if the new information is the truth or false because we will deny it either way and not want to hear it out.
We hold beliefs so strong that any information that shows otherwise will only make us ignore it or validate our beliefs for not believing the conflicting opinion. This is why we tend to associate with people that validate our beliefs and ideas, and why our enemies are those that disagree with our beliefs and ideas, and why there is so much conflict and denial in the world. We can’t just look at the facts and dismiss them, we have to look at the whole picture from an unbiased point of view. If we only look at the world from our perspective, a scope if you will, then we will never see what other ideas are around us since we will focus on one perspective only, which is our own.
Or even worse, we could be brainwashed from the ideas we have gathered from television, the Internet, the news, and so on, leading us to simply be uneducated about the reality of matters and instead believe whatever is in alignment with our ideas and beliefs. In other words, we are too gullible when it comes to things that agree with our core beliefs and principals, and too resistant and in denial about things that oppose our core beliefs and principals.
Let’s use religion as an example. There are so many religions, some of which conflict with one another, and yet people that are part of these religions cannot listen to any information outside their beliefs, even if it’s been proven fact. Which one is fact and which one is false is determined by the person’s perspective since each person who follows a specific religion will disagree with other religious beliefs if they do not align with their own religious beliefs. Another example is with diet, exercise, health. How many of us hear things like certain foods, drugs, the list goes on, are bad for our health, yet we continue doing them? We ignore it and think it’s not a big deal. We may hear eating certain foods, not exercising, and doing drugs can lead to illnesses or even death, but do we listen? “Nah, that’s not true,” is what we think in our mind when hearing the information as we simply just ignore the facts and studies.
With that being said, how can we accept new ideas? Let’s talk about that now.
Accepting New Ideas
We are biased, so listening to other ideas is a challenge. In order to do so, we have to come out of denial, understand fact from opinion, and learn. I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying about burying our head in sand and being oblivious to everything around us. Being in denial and telling ourselves lies is something we all do since we want to believe that we are right. We don’t want to believe that something we’ve been doing for years, or beliefs we’ve had for years could turn out to be false, a lie, or something entirely different from what we initially thought. We live by our rules, in constant denial of the world around us, believing things we only want to believe and not what is true. In order to come out of denial, we need to take a step back.
Take a step back from our biased frame of mind. Listen and approach with an unbiased point of view. It is hard for us to admit when we were wrong, but we must step back from our beliefs if we ever wish to learn. How can we ever learn and grown if we are headed down a negative path unless we acquire new information from an alternative perspective that has different beliefs than ours? Or at the very least, listen to new ideas so we can form an educated opinion about the topic. We can’t just dismiss something if we have no evidence to backup our claims. In order to be unbiased, we need to separate our emotional self, our ego, from the rational self that can soak in new information, interpret it, and proceed in a way that is best for us. The problem with this is that when we are in a particular thought pattern for so long, it’s hard to break it and change it.
Likewise, take a step back from defending yourself. Let yourself be vulnerable during a moment of learning. With conflicting opinions and even facts that are opposite our beliefs, we get defensive when something challenges our ideas and thoughts on life. Why do we do this? Primarily because we perceive it as an attack on us personally. The ideas and thoughts we have are important to us and make up the fundamentals of our personality. So when something comes along that disagrees with this information we have rationalized in our mind for so long, it can be hard to accept anything but what we are already use to and already know. If we let this guard down, we can learn so much more. A lot of time in a debate, we are not really listening to the opposing party, but rather waiting for our chance to speak about why our views are right and our opponent is wrong. We may also become defensive due to taking offense of the opposing party’s ideas and views. When we become offended, we go on the defensive and try to fire back, often illogically. I have a video dedicated to the topic of taking offense that I’ll have an annotation and a link in the description if you would like more information in this area. [Taking Offense]
We always think we are right, but we are not. We need to understand that people have different views than we do. We cannot force or get people to see the world from our eyes. We all have a different view of the world. What will seem right to some will be wrong to others. This is why right and wrong simply cannot properly be discussed without putting our own views into it since there is no such thing. It’s subjective. Thinking we are always right shows how immature we actually are. We are showing that we are incapable of learning new things because we force our opinions and views on others. Rather, while you don’t have to accept new ideas and views as your own, you can respect other’s views. You may not agree with them, but you also don’t have to resonate with them or try to prove to the opposing party that you are right. Let people have their own opinion, and even with educating them, if they refuse any new information, let them be stubborn in their ways. We cannot force anyone to have a different view than they already have.
From my own experience with cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias, and being in denial about things, yes of course I’ve done it. I’ve believed that certain diets and foods, supplements are healthy for me, continuing to eat and take them, only to realize it was causing me health problems. Having a placebo effect when taking other supplements, saying it was helping me, when it was doing nothing for me. Being in denial about what was really going on and saying, “No, that can’t be true. It makes no sense.” All of this only to realize that I was doing myself more harm by resisting factual information.
What about also ignoring someone before even hearing them out? Yeah, I’ve done it. People try to help me in some way, or give me some constructive criticism, and all I would say is, “Yeah, yeah, yeah! I’m not going to listen to you since you don’t know what you are talking about. You are not right. My life is fine. Everything is good.” In reality, it wasn’t good. But, I felt I needed to go on the defensive to cover up the fact that I was in denial. You see there, I was in denial, I knew things were not good, and when people exposed those vulnerabilities, I took to saying that I was right and they were wrong, when it was in fact the other way around. Amazing how that works, isn’t it? Sometimes I would even confess and play the victim afterwards to look for sympathy. Saying things like, “I know, it’s much worse than you think. I have this and that.” And then proceeding to go into detail about things I was struggling with to make myself look worse than the person who I was speaking with.
How I managed to properly deal with these things was to first understand that these are people’s opinions. I could take them or leave them. But, I shouldn’t deny them if they are true, nor should I try to make myself look worse than what I am. I needed to understand that in order for me to address my problems, I needed to face them and then I could change them. I confronted the problem, I listened to the people, and I gave them credit instead of taking all the credit for myself. Any opposing views I don’t agree with, I hear them out in their entirety, listening to where this person is coming from with their beliefs, truly listening, and then understanding that we all have different views and as much as I am entitled to my beliefs, so is the person with other beliefs.
So in conclusion, cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias are simply a means of not being able to accept, or even listen to, opposing views. We will do anything we can to disprove, discredit, and deny the new information. But, we need to learn to accept new ideas and listen to people with conflicting beliefs so we can understand where they are coming from. The more we deny, the less we will be able to learn. I hope this information was informative and helpful to you. Have a wonderful day!
What a fascinating topic! Something I learned about rather recently over the past several months. It’s such an important thing as this topic is something that makes up much of our personality. We don’t like to hear our ideas and thoughts are incorrect. We don’t like to be challenged. But, as I’ve learned during my time, these challenges and obstacles are potential for major learning opportunities.