Confirmation Bias: Your Brain is So Judgmental
Learn how to make up for lazy shortcuts made by your brain as well as how to guide other people around their first impressions of you.
Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson is a social psychologist who researches, writes, and speaks about the science of motivation. She is the Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center at the Columbia Business School, Senior Consultant for the Neuroleadership Institute, and author of the best-selling books:
Succeed: How We Can All Reach Our Goals, Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing The World for Success and Influence (co-written with E. Tory Higgins), and The 8 Motivational Challenges.
Halvorson is also a contributor to the Harvard Business Review, 99u, Fast Company, WSJ.com, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and Psychology Today.
In addition to her work as author and co-editor of the highly-regarded academic book The Psychology of Goals (Guilford, 2009), she has authored papers in her field’s most prestigious journals, including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, European Journal of Social Psychology, and Judgment and Decision Making. She has received numerous grants from the National Science Foundation for her research on goals and achievement.
HGH is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and was recently elected to the highly selective Society for Experimental Social Psychology. She gives frequent invited addresses and speaks regularly at national conferences, and is available for speaking and consulting engagements, primarily in education, marketing, and management. She received her PhD in social psychology from Columbia University.
Heidi Grant Halvorson: So there are lots of biases that you can basically count on your perceiver being subject to. They’re going to interfere with the way this person sees you. The first and probably the most common is the confirmation bias. So confirmation bias is the brain’s tendency to once you start to kind of go get a sense of what someone is like, so you show in an initial interaction you start to feel like this is a funny person or this is a smart person or this is someone I can trust. And once you start to have that initial hunch your brain naturally looks for information that confirms that initial hunch and kind of ignores everything else. Psychologists also refer to this tendency to really latch on to early information about a person as the primacy effect. And basically what that means is the information we learn first about another person disproportionately shapes our understanding of them afterward. And so, you know, in a way I sometimes feel bad talking about that because I’d love to be the person that came and said you know how everyone tells you that first impressions are so important. Don’t worry about it. They’re not that important. If anything, what the science shows is that they’re really more important than you even think they are because that first impression is those — the initial information that other person gets about you will have a really major effect on everything else they see.
So, for example, if in your initial encounter with someone you come across as kind of a jerk and you know it. You realize afterwards that you didn’t come across the way you intended to. And so the next day when you come in to work, let’s say, you bring them a cup of coffee and you think well that’ll be nice, a nice gesture. It’ll show them that I’m not a jerk. What’s actually more likely to happen is that they’re going to interpret you giving them coffee with the lens of understanding of how you were a jerk before. So they’ll say oh, can you believe this jerk who’s trying to manipulate me by he thinks just giving me some coffee is going to somehow get me on his side, right. So they’ll feel manipulated by the gesture. They’ll interpret the gesture in a way that’s consistent with what they already think of you. And that’s really the challenge. Now how do you get past confirmation bias? How do you get over the primacy effect when, let’s say, your initial impression you gave someone wasn’t that good. There are a couple of ways to do it. You can kind of think of them as the tortoise and the hare ways of getting people to update their impressions. The tortoise way, because it takes a long time, is simply overwhelming them with an abundance of really eye-catching information that says I’m not who you think I am, right. So it’s not just bringing them a cup of coffee the next day. It’s going out of your way to be nice day after day after day potentially for a couple of months before that person finally realizes there’s so much evidence that you’re a nice person that they say you know what?
What I thought of them originally that’s not true. They’re actually a really nice person. But it takes a ton of information to do that and you really have to hang in there for the long haul. The hare method, which is actually not that fast — it’s really more of a faster tortoise method is to find a way for you to work with that person or have them need you in some way. Because psychologists call this creating an outcome dependency. What it means is that that person, in order for them to get what, they want they have to work with me. And what naturally happens when you create outcome dependency between people is that they become really interested in being accurate about that other person, right. Because if I need you to get what I want, then I’m going to have to really pay attention to who you are and be able to predict you. So people naturally take a second look. They don’t just rely on that initial impression they had. They take another look at you and they’re more willing to update and revise their impression of you in order to be really accurate. This is why you find so often people will say oh, you know, I thought so and so was not that bright, but then I worked with him and I found out that he was really smart. Well yeah, working together creates a real motivation for you to be accurate about the other person and that really opens up a door for you to make a good second impression if you’ve made a poor first one.
Don't trust your first impressions... Your brain is working to lead you astray.
Social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson explains how to make up for lazy shortcuts made by your brain as well as how to guide other people around their first impressions of you.
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Minimoons<p>Scientists have confirmed just two prior minimoons. One was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_RH120" target="_blank">2006 RH120</a>, which orbited us from September 2006 to June 2007. The other was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_CD3" target="_blank">2020 CD3</a>, which got stuck in the 2015–2016 timeframe, and is believed to gotten away in May 2020.</p><p>2020 SO, the new kid on the block, is expected to arrive in October 2020 and pop out of orbit in May 2021.</p><div id="37962" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4c0fc8a2cba6536ea4cd960ebed3e6e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1307729521869611008" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Asteroid 2020 SO may get captured by Earth from Oct 2020 - May 2021. Current nominal trajectory shows shows capture… https://t.co/F5utxRvN6Z</div> — Tony Dunn (@Tony Dunn)<a href="https://twitter.com/tony873004/statuses/1307729521869611008">1600621989.0</a></blockquote></div>
Identifying 2020 SO<p>The first clue 2020 SO isn't your ordinary asteroid is its exceptionally low velocity. It's traveling much more slowly that a typical asteroid — their <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/training/illustrations/craterMechanics/" target="_blank">average rate of travel</a> <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/training/illustrations/craterMechanics/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"></a>is 18 kilometers (58,000 feet) per second. Even <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_rock" target="_blank">moon rocks</a> sent careening into Earth orbit by impacts on the lunar surface outpace pokey 2020 SO.</p><p>For another thing, 2020 SO has an orbital path very similar to Earth's, lasting about one Earth year. It's also just slightly less circular than our own orbit, from which it's barely tilted off-axis.</p><p>So, what is it? <a href="https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/" target="_blank">NASA estimates</a> that the object has dimensions very reminiscent of a discarded Centaur rocket stage from the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveyor_2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Surveyor 2 mission</a> that landed an unmanned craft on the moon. Back in the day, rocket stages were jettisoned as craft were aimed toward their desired position. This stuff, if released high enough, remains in space. It appears that this Centaur rocket, launched in September 1966, is now making its way back homeward, at least for a little bit.</p><p>When 2020 SO arrives at its closest point in December, the rocket is expected to be about 50,000 kilometers from Earth. Its next closest approach is much further: 220,000 kilometers, in February 2010.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzMDk3NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODg1MTQ1MX0.HGknDwqp0GmeuczKY_AS7vrPG7KMFUc_XO95tNoI2xo/img.jpg?width=980" id="e5cda" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="85eb1f790d8c3ee5b261f7ba13eaa5e1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Centaur rocket stage" />
Centaur rocket stage
What we may be able to learn<p>Earthly space programs being as young as they are, scientists would love to know what's happened to our rocket during a half century in space.</p><p>While 2020 SO won't get close enough to drop into our atmosphere, its slow progress has scientists hopeful that they'll still get some kind of a decent look at it.</p><p>Spectroscopy may be able to reveal what the rocket's surface is like now — has any of its paint survived, for example? Of course, being out in space, it's likely to have been hit by lots of dust and micrometeorites, so the current state of its surfaces is also of interest. Experts are curious to know how reflective the rocket is at this point, valuable information that can help planners of future long-term missions anticipate how well a craft out in space for extended periods will remain able to reflect sunlight.</p>
Yet 80 percent of respondents want to reduce their risk of dementia.
- A new MDVIP/Ipsos survey found that only 35 percent of Americans know the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
- Eighty percent of respondents said they want to reduce their risks.
- An estimated 7.1 million Americans over the age of 65 will suffer from Alzheimer's by 2025.
Credit: logika600 / Shutterstock<p>Remaining healthy requires regular screenings. Here again we see a disassociation between risk reduction and proactivity. Seventy-seven percent of respondents don't talk to their doctors about lifestyle habits that support brain health; 51 percent have never been screened for depression; 44 percent have never had a neurological exam; and 32 percent have never been screened for hearing problems. </p><p>Common early warning signs of dementia, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">according to</a> Dr. Jason Karlawish, co-director of the Penn Memory Center, include repetitive questions and stories, difficulties with complex daily tasks, and trouble with orientation. </p><p>In terms of intervention, <a href="https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/does-lack-of-exercise-lead-to-dementia" target="_self">exercise</a>, <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/obesity-dementia" target="_self">diet</a>, building a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/brain-reserve" target="_self">brain reserve</a>, and challenging your brain (such as learning a new language or musical instrument) are all proven methods for staving off the ravages of Alzheimer's. Oxytocin has also <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/alzheimers-oxytocin" target="_self">showed promise</a> in brain-addled mice, while researchers found positive results for a <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/intermittent-fasting" target="_self">group of intermittent fasters</a> in promoting neurogenesis. </p><p>Epidemiologist Bryan James says that dementia is <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/04/15/176920391/how-exercise-and-other-activities-beat-back-dementia" target="_blank">not an inevitable result</a> of aging. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It's simply not pre-destined for all human beings. Lots of people live into their 90s and even 100s with no symptoms of dementia." </p><p>Professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, Andrew Budson, <a href="https://news.yahoo.com/americans-worry-alzheimers-disease-survey-140644803.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends</a> aerobic exercise and the Mediterranean diet. As has long been known, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and healthy fasts like nuts and olive oil seem to have brain-boosting properties. </p><p>To learn more, take the <a href="https://www.mdvip.com/brain-health-iq-quiz" target="_blank">Brain Health IQ quiz</a>.</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>