Confirmation bias: The tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.
In other words, once we believe something to be true, we ignore evidence that contradicts said belief and focus on the evidence that does.
This can work in your favor if people think you’re good at your job, or you’re smart, or any other positive attribute. But there are downsides. Once someone has doubts about you, it is incredibly difficult for you to overcome them.
We all have these cognitive biases (there are so many!), and being aware of them is the first step to moving past them.
Because of Jack, I’ve been thinking about confirmation bias. My “gut” is whispering to me there is something to my being only his second date after going back online, to his wanting to be exclusive right away, to opening a POF profile before he’d moved out of the house, to his occasional bland text messages in response to my flirtatious ones, and his closing his eyes during sex.
This is confirmation bias at work. I’m not suggesting my gut feelings are baseless, but it’s all too easy to ignore evidence to the contrary. It’s how we make sense of the world and the insane volume of information our brains process every day.
So what do I do about it?
Shut up about it with him, for a start. This is something I was never good at before. I used to think just because something crossed my mind, it gave me full license to share it. I rarely stepped back to think about else what could be going on, and when I should speak up.
In this case, I can slowly share the things I need and want in order to have a satisfying relationship. If I want more flirtatious text messages (for example), I can assume it’s because he doesn’t want to flirt, and approach the conversation as a criticism, or I can demonstrate the behavior I want, let him know I really appreciate when it happens, then praise the heck out of him when it does.
I also know it’s tempting to interpret someone’s behavior as meaning the same thing if it was us acting that way. If you’re someone I want to have sex with and I don’t acknowledge a text you’ve sent, it’s probably deliberate pacing of the discussion (for men who will constantly want to text, all day every day), or I’m peeved, or I just don’t give a shit.
So when someone doesn’t reply to me, I presume it’s one of the above.
There’s also a fascinating bias called Fundamental Attribution Error, which means we tend to attribute someone’s actions predominantly to “who they are”, instead of the external circumstances they are in. Some of the things my gut is whispering about with Jack could really be simply the situation he’s in right now. A parent in the hospital and moving out are pretty major life events and he’s experiencing them both at the same time.
Or I could be completely right and a week or month from now I will be writing about some deep seated issue he has.
But damn it, I’m going to try to conquer my biases and overthinking.