“Your mind will take the shape of what you frequently hold in thought, for the human spirit is colored by such impressions”
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.16
“If one were to attempt to identify a single problematic aspect of human reasoning that deserves attention above all others, the confirmation bias would have to be among the candidates for consideration”
Have you ever asked why you see frequently cars of a specific model when you have plans to buy such a car?
You notice plenty of dogs on the street because you are about to get a puppy?
Why do you spot happy couples everywhere when you have an uneventful romantic life? Maybe you blame some character trait or your financial situation for it? Or perhaps a feature of your appearance? Say height, for example.
Let’s focus on height for a second.
My own height is slightly below average, at least compared to the average height for men in Germany.
I am not really short, but I am not tall either (I am about 1.72 meters).
So this topic bothers me only once in a while, if at all.
But the truth is also, that there are these particular bad nights in nightclubs, or painful and unexpected rejections from women when I occasionally blame my height for that.
Now, guess what occurs when my mental state is out of balance in this regard?
I am spotting couples with tall men everywhere. In malls, on the street, in groceries.
I am looking at the newspaper or at online-articles and get confronted with the fact that salaries depend on height.
A documentary about Napoleon Bonaparte in my youtube suggestions is popping up (for the case you don’t know: he was a very short general).
Every girl on dating apps seems to exceed the 1.80 meters mark.
A remote acquaintance of mine (approximately my height) has major issues with this subject. Recently he made a remark that pricked up my ears and triggered the idea for this blog-article:
“It was warm and sunny today. There were girls everywhere, most of whom were with their boyfriends. Some seriously hot girls with the hourglass shape I desire so much were arm and arm with these 185cm hunks. I couldn’t help but feel inferior.”
Is there some cruel kobold mocking us?
No, this is not exactly the case.
The described phenomenon is called confirmation bias, and we were fallen victim to subconscious mental filters. If emotions are concerned, these filters can be incredibly powerful.
So powerful, that they are able to impair one’s intellectual reasoning.
From all that noise of information to which you are exposed to every hour of the day, only a tiny fraction passes the filters. This explains the illusion of frequency.
The reality: all of my former girlfriends were of almost similar height, the most attractive one even bigger than me, as a matter of fact. And you can be pretty successful, do even better than a tall person if you decide to choose a career as a dancer, or as a judo practitioner.
My subconscious believes are not interested in such undeniable facts. They want to confirm the hypothesis “when you are not tall you are doomed”.
Wikipedia tells us about confirmation bias, that it “is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses.”
While practical evidence suggests that you have a couple of advantages when your height is in the range of 1.80 to 1.90 meters, the excuse “I am too xy to do z” is solely a pretext to stay passive and remain in your comfort zone.
But height was only an example. Confirmation bias applies to a variety of subjects. We are paying attention to what we like, or what we like to hear.
Few people who read the newspaper are searching for the objective truth. The majority wants to confirm their long consolidated opinions.
Take this into consideration, and a political debate reveals itself in a different light.
This article was intended to be very short, and mainly as an element of a personal compendium for personal development.
If you have more interest in this topic, I recommend consulting the suggested websites.
“As animals subjected to the slow force of evolution, we have developed all sorts of heuristics, biases, and emotional responses that might have worked well on the savannah but are totally counterproductive in today’s world”
– Ryan Holiday