You're biased

It's no secret, but for some reason, it rarely comes up when we talk, and heaven forbid, you tell someone they're biased... and even fewer people are asking what we should do about it. It's ingrained in us, and Facebook's news feed feeding us more what we want to see (with inner workings unseen) sure isn't helping.

Imagine buying a lottery ticket. The chances of winning are one in a million (the odds are much worse). Perhaps you win, and you correctly guess: it was nothing more than luck. Or perhaps, you happen to think the numbers you picked had something to do with it. 

This error isn't the cost of incomplete knowledge. Your estimate (if you think you numbers made you win) will be incorrect on average, even if you won this time. You're suffering from hindsight bias.

Now imagine you know the numbers would be before the draw and you buy your ticket accordingly. Your one in one million chance of winning is guaranteed. But that's a different game, a game that's biased in your favour. And when your method of learning about something is biased (whether in your direction or another), more information doesn't help. If you knew everyone else's numbers (but not the winning numbers), that wouldn't help you win. More information isn't always the answer. Most often we want the right information.

So when we spend time learning, we want to ensure new knowledge helps us, rather than helping us believe in what we already believe more deeply. Whether we like it or not we tend to interpret new information as a confirmation of what we already believe. Confirmation bias is everywhere. That's a shame – being wrong – is a good thing.

Hindsight bias and confirmation bias are both cognitive biases. Systematic errors in how we think, we as in you and I, and the remaining population. Not dumb, and dumber. Confirmation bias skews your beliefs so they less accurately represent reality, even if I showed you information that disproves what you believe in. Decision-making is hard enough, without having to fight with your own brain.

The first thing is to accept that you're biased like everyone else. 

No, not biased like we call each other when trying to win an argument. Cognitive biases are part of being human, a feature and a bug

And knowing about biases need not make them easier to study. If you can't trust your brain (confirmation bias), how can you trust anything?

Well, we can start by internalising what confirmation bias means, then we can introduce it into our vernacular, and finally we try to overcome it and the multitudes of other errors our mind has built in.