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.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
Great again? Why America stopped looking forward to the future
- Income inequality is dividing Americans.
- Wages haven't risen in 30 years, while prices for housing, schools, and basic goods has.
- Canny (and uncanny) politicians have learned how to milk the politics of fear by comparing the present to the past.
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