Whenever we have conversations, we’re coming into them with a specific set of beliefs. This goes double when we’re dealing with a romantic relationship. When we get into fights with our romantic partners, we sometimes get really irrational about it. Sometimes, we might think that we’re right, or just that they’re wrong, even if that’s not the case at all. What you’re experiencing during that moment is a phenomenon known as confirmation bias. That’s when we leave a faulty belief that we have unchecked, and because we’re not challenging that belief, we start to think that it’s actually true. This can make us become people who believe things that have no basis in reality, and that’s not good news for our relationships. Here’s what you need to know about confirmation bias, and how your relationships might be failing because you think you’re always right.
Imagine you’re trying to call your partner. You end up getting their voicemail a couple of times, so you wait around for them to call back. The problem is that they never do. It’s really easy to get irrational in a case like this, and I’m sure we all have stories of interpreting one missed call as our partners wanting to leave us, even if we knew it was irrational to think that.
There’s a danger in this. What if you didn’t check yourself by saying that your partner wouldn’t ghost you like that? What if you simply allowed that belief to fester, and any evidence that followed after that was simply dismissed unless it supported the idea that your partner might leave you?
This is confirmation bias at work? This is an extreme example, but what I’ve described is confirmation bias applied to your love life. Confirmation bias is when someone believes something to be true so badly, they make it true in their own minds, even if it isn’t true or factual in any way.
Once we form a view, we tend to stick to it. However, confirmation bias takes this to an extreme. Once we believe something to be true, confirmation bias can make us only embrace evidence that supports that view. If we come across something that disputes our belief, we dismiss it as fake.
We pick things out that confirm our biases. The very fact that confirmation bias exists shows that we don’t look at our circumstances objectively in any way, shape or form. We pick out the things that make us feel good and make us feel like we’re right.
Confirmation bias can show up in any facet of our lives. For example, think about anti-vaxxers. They believe that vaccines cause all sorts of horrible things, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. However, they see that evidence and move it aside for evidence that supports their worldview.
We can also see this in other places. For some kids, their belief in things like Santa and the tooth fairy can suffer from confirmation bias. Even when they see the Santa costume in your closet, the fact that the tooth fairy gives different amounts of money to different kids, and all of those mall Santas, their brains will simply refuse to believe that it’s not true. This isn’t true for all kids, but it is true for enough of them.
Anxious people deal with confirmation bias all the time. They tend to see the world as dangerous in some way, even if it isn’t. Take a person with really low self esteem. They’re really sensitive towards being ignored by others, and they’re constantly looking for signs that they’re being ignored. Anything that trips that alarm that they’re being ignored makes them think that that person doesn’t like them.
We see this in the dating world all the time, too. Take overly persistent guys, for example. They’ll see a girl and think that she wants to go home with him. If she gives that guy any sort of positive attention, he’s going to use that as evidence that she wants to sleep with him, even if she gave him a fake number and is constantly checking the time.
Any sign can be something bad, or something good. Basically, people using confirmation bias are taking neutral, normal signs and turning them into something that suits their purposes, even if they don’t actually suit their purposes. It’s a kind of wishful thinking that can be really destructive.
Wishful thinking can be a good way to lie to yourself. We lie to ourselves all the time, saying that something isn’t that fattening, or that we’re not going to get blackout drunk despite being a lightweight, or even that they’re not too drunk to drive. As you can see, some lies we tell ourselves are bigger and more destructive than others.
Self deception can be good for us, though. Positive thinking has been known to help your skin, give your brain and energy levels a boost, and even help fight cancer. That kind of self deception can be a really good thing. However, there’s a difference between positive self deception and confirmation bias.
Basically, you want to try and prove yourself wrong. Whenever you have a belief that you really believe in, you want to do your best to disprove it. You need to look for instances where you might be wrong. This actually shows not that you doubt yourself, but that you’re confident enough to challenge yourself.
For your relationships, this means not assuming things about your partner. Don’t assume that they can do no wrong to the point where you’re blinded from their flaws. On the other hand, don’t go out of your way to think they’re terrible when there’s a reason why you’re with them in the first place.
What’s the lesson to learn here? Always stay challenging yourself. Go out of your way to learn different things, and do your best not to stay in any particular bubble. More importantly, when it comes to your relationships, don’t pigeonhole yourself into any one thing because you want it to be true. You want to believe in actual, factual things, not deceive yourself into thinking that something’s right when it isn’t.