The first principle is you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.
I think rechard feynman is pointing towards the mother of all cognitive biases in this one line, Confirmation Bias.
The best example I can remember which we all can relate to very easily is, what we all have done during our school days.
If we get good scores in exams, we pat our back and magnify it in our social status.
If we get weak score, either they asked the question out of syllabus or we make narrative that none of our classmate has scored well. The overall results is low. All the fault was in system not in our efforts.
The hidden agenda here was, we all want to believe that what we do and think is right despite the fact that reality is disconfirming our assumptions. We all wanted to believe or reinforce the belief that we are intelligent despite all the factual evidence against it.
So we interpret all the information about our exam results in a way that our preconceived belief of being intelligent and hardworking remain unchanged.
In this short story of our past, We all were victim of Confirmation Bias.
We humans are very great at one skill.
“Creating an Interpretation about any new information or idea in a way that it easily became compatible with our existing thinking patterns, beliefs and theories”.
We don’t like to feel psychologically uncomfortable by being wrong or updating our worldview which we are living with through years.
Moreover, In world full of information it’s far more prominent because we are bound to search evidence on what we already believe to support our arguments. We all are having spiral of beliefs and myrid web of assumptions about various things. What we do on internet is just to find the supportive information and narratives to what we have already accepted comfortably.
All social media is optimised to serve you the information in which you are interested more, not what you need to know to become better thinker or better person. Social media serves our confirmation bias a lot, it only serves us the information which are consistent in our worldview.
In jornalism, If someone is writing article about success of Company X. They will attach some rudimentary arguments as a success formula. For example, Company X is successful because of “Innovation”. Now the whole article will revolve around the notion that ‘Innovation is the key to success’ despite the fact that there would be many other companies in that same space which are not that much innovative still they are running it successfully over the years.
But the Question is, Why do we do such thing? Knowingly or unknowingly.
- Because our existing perception is so dear to us that dropping it would give us psychological discomfort.
- Constantly Updating our worldview requires lot of mental work and its very exhausting process.
Thinking is the hardest thing there is, Thats why most people don’t do it.
- It’s very hard to keep many different thinking model in our head. So we find utter convinicence to keep up with very few we have cultivated till date.
Now The capital question arise is, How can we improve our mental makeup so that we can remain aware of our own Confirmation Bias?
There are many ways to it. But i personally recommed to read Sharlock Holmes stories. I always feel if we read something which is very interesting and engaging, its easy to understand the complex concept encapsulated in it. One must read the stories of Sherlock Holmes and observe his method of evaluating every case he took in his hand as a detective.
Sharlock Holmes is benchmark thinker who evaluate each and every element of his case completely based on their own individual merit without being influenced by any of his preconceived theories or ideas of previous experience of his work as a detective.
“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion, draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects.”
– Francis Bacon