If there’s one thing that the internet has intensified, it’s the tendency to reject new ideas that don’t fit with preconceived narratives. Never has it been easier to ‘delete’ a point of view that differs from our own literally and figuratively. Put simply, we like things that fit our assumptions and preconceived notions of the world. Anything else feels like such hard work. We just can’t be bothered to deconstruct our old ideas and take on new ones, especially if they make us uneasy. In psychology it’s called Confirmation Bias and it’s the tendency to judge new ideas by how they fit and conform to our current belief systems.
But to Confirmation Bias we can add a whole host of other biases, recently beautifully illustrated by Integralist Brian McLaren in an ebook entitled “Why don’t they get it? Overcoming Bias in Others.”
Recently, in the Centre for Action and Contemplation, Richard Rohr has had a series of daily contemplations on these biases, which are worth spending time with. He has a habit of getting to the nuts and bolts.
Complexity Bias: Our brains prefer a simple falsehood to a complex truth.
Community Bias: It’s almost impossible to see what our community doesn’t, can’t, or won’t see.
Complementarity Bias: If you are hostile to my ideas, I’ll be hostile to yours. If you are curious and respectful toward my ideas, I’ll respond in kind.
Competency Bias: We don’t know how much (or little) we know because we don’t know how much (or little) others know. In other words, incompetent people assume that most other people are about as incompetent as they are. As a result, they underestimate their [own] incompetence, and consider themselves at least of average competence.
Consciousness Bias: Some things simply can’t be seen from where I am right now. But if I keep growing, maturing, and developing, someday I will be able to see what is now inaccessible to me.
Comfort or Complacency Bias: I prefer not to have my comfort disturbed.
Conservative/Liberal Bias: I lean toward nurturing fairness and kindness, or towards strictly enforcing purity, loyalty, liberty, and authority, as an expression of my political identity.
Confidence Bias: I am attracted to confidence, even if it is false. I often prefer the bold lie to the hesitant truth.
Catastrophe or Normalcy Bias: I remember dramatic catastrophes but don’t notice gradual decline (or improvement).
Contact Bias: When I don’t have intense and sustained personal contact with “the other,” my prejudices and false assumptions go unchallenged.
Cash Bias: It’s hard for me to see something when my way of making a living requires me not to see it.
Conspiracy Bias: Under stress or shame, our brains are attracted to stories that relieve us, exonerate us, or portray us as innocent victims of malicious conspirators.
Richard says that he knows of no other way to be free of all these biases except through the contemplative mind. Contemplation allows us to let go of our cherished beliefs and hold them lightly, in the light of new evidence coming to mind. We might recognise when we are guilty of our own biases (we are none of us immune) and be better able to look at their origins and see how we might let go of the ones that keep us from growing.