Making a Mountain out of a Molehill

In the book “The Art of Thinking Clearly”, Rolf Dobelli wrote about the Confirmation Bias. It refers to human’s nature to seek a certain pattern and form theories about it. However, our theories may be wrong, and there may not even be a pattern in the first place.

A quote from Warren Buffet goes “What the human being is best at doing, is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact. ”

This may be a dangerous practice because it can paint a grossly inaccurate picture of the world. People stay in their comfort zones and are contented with selective understanding of the world which adheres to what they already assume of the world.

One thing I tend to do is to over extrapolate from a single incident and relate it to past incidents and knowledge. For example, I make sweeping assumptions such as “The frail uncle that cleans the trays at the hawker centre must be poor and live in a one-room flat like many elderly in Singapore these days. ” and immediately start to feel bad about the plight of elderly in Singapore.

Indeed, I have learnt in sociology classes that one should always practise the sociological imagination, so as the old uncle start to clear my table for me, I ought to ponder about elderly issues in Singapore, how the dependency ratio has decreased significantly, how birth rate continues to fall etc. However, I never realised that doing so could well be committing a mistake of over analysing. In any case, the old uncle could just be someone who has children that are willing to provide for him, but he wishes to earn extra income for himself. Thinking otherwise is a result of myself trying to find evidences to suit a certain preconception.

One useful tip to prevent the confirmation bias as stated by Rolf Dobelli is to seek for counter-arguments instead of evidences to proof a theory. Showing that a theory is strong enough to stand alone, and can defend all the counter evidences, is better than simply searching for evidences to prove one’s own point. An important point to note for the rest of my academic journey ahead.


Author: Cheryl Tan

22 // +65 A closet thinker. Documents her life in words and songs. Hopelessly obsessed with skies, and oh, FOOD.

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