Confirmation Bias

posted in: Child Abuse, Observations | 6

The other day I was doing some reading about “confirmation bias”, our natural tendency to process information in ways that agree with what we already believe to be true, and ignoring information that challenges those beliefs.

We see this frequently when it comes to politics, for example. People who lean one way or another on political issues, tend to get their information from sources that confirm that belief, and ignore, or outright ridicule sources that represent the other side.

As I was reading some more about it though, I started to see where this natural tendency could be very harmful for survivors. Why? Because we were taught things, and believe things, based on our experiences that simply aren’t true any more. For example, as an adult, I am not a helpless child, yet how often does stress make us revert right back to feeling like we are?

It also comes into play when we “see” things that aren’t really there. As survivors we are fine tuned to sense any kind of danger that may be waiting for us. How much of the danger that we sense is really just our confirmation bias? How many people who are perfectly trustworthy do we push away because we are simply confirming our belief that people are out to hurt us? How many opportunities do we shrink away from, because we are stuck in our belief that the world is full of danger everywhere?

If nothing else, it’s something to think about as part of your healing. Challenge those beliefs when you can, don’t just accept what you’ve believed since childhood. You may find that those beliefs are not the world you live in now.

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6 Responses

  1. joan

    you have just made my morning. I am in a position where i am forced to overhaul every single thing i went through in childhood. I was not sexually abused in child hood. Sometimes i was verbally and physically abused. But the worst thing was that i suffered from being ignored by my parents. Even today i suffer from the feeling that others are just not interested in what i have to say. It has seriously affected me in many ways. I find that the hardest thing is fighting MYSELF on a daily basis. When the enemy is on the outside it is so easy to tackle them! But when its yourself…that is another matter altogether. I am more or less alone in this fight because my society does not encourage me or any other of its members to do introspection. Everything is always somebody elses fault. (I am Kenyan.) I know i will succeed in changing my outlook towards life- but i must admit it is a really difficult and lonely journey. I would really appreciate any more material on changing one’s self that you may have. Thank you!

    • MikeM

      Joan, take a look around, there are plenty of my own posts about healing, and the Blog against child abuse posts have lots of links to other survivors doing similar things. That’s always a good place to start, seeing what other survivors have to say!

      Best of luck! Changing your self can be difficult, it certainly requires work and perseverance! But it so rewarding when you can get beyond the world you built to protect yourself from your childhood.

  2. Kate

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks for this post. This is something that I have been aware of and have struggled with for many years. I finally feel that I have many, many experiences of good to counter-act the years of being a minor and later an adult, where there were so many experiences that validated the confirmation bias. Now I believe some very lovely and positive things about myself.

    This is a great message. Thanks so much for sharing it on the Blog Carnival. Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

    http://kate1975.wordpress.com/

  3. Kate

    Hi,

    I wanted to add a few links for Joan, who posted a comment here. I hope that is okay.

    Emotional Abuse
    Child Neglect
    Grounding/Coping Skills
    Self-Soothe/Comfort Skills

    Kate

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