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Natalie Hodgkinson

confirmation bias?

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Hi, this is my first post on here so a little nervous.. I've been reading people's posts about different things and have come across something called confirmation bias.

Could anybody tell me more about this please and if I'm experiencing it?

It's as if I am looking around, looking for danger, just waiting for something to happen. I'll just be sat at home and it's like everything feels big and like i'm not even in my own home. What is this and does anybody else get it or know what I mean?      Thank you

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Hi Natalie, welcome to the forum :)

Confirmation bias is looking out for things and over valuing things that confirm things we already believe. For example, someone who worries about cleanliness might look out for things that aren't clean. Looking out for things makes you notice them more, building the belief that things are commonly unclean. People with confirmation bias ignore things that contradict their beliefs.

What do you mean everything in your home feels big? Do you mean in size? 

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Thank you Gemma :)

So say I had a thought about a chair being contaminated which prevented me from sitting on it, then going over to it and seeing it was covered in blood, then thinking it was a good job I didn't sit down on that without checking it!... or is that not right? A lot of my thoughts do consist of things like that recently.

I mean in size yes, it's like my surroundings are so familiar they almost don't feel right, it's hard to explain... like they're not normal and I don't know what they are anymore.  

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Yes if I'm understanding correctly. If you saw blood on a chair that you would have checked, it might reinforce the behaviour of checking, in other words the belief that it is needed. You would probably also forget all the times where you checked and there was nothing. That is confirmation bias. 

Perhaps in doing lots of checks you think your surroundings are not normal but it's more that things don't feel right, rather than they aren't right. OCD can make you very sensitivity to feelings of doubt. Are you getting any help for your OCD? 

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Hi @Natalie Hodgkinson and welcome to the forums!  Sorry to hear about your struggles, I hope you find help here!

Understanding confirmation bias can be a big help in overcoming OCD (and help with life in general), its a good question to ask!  Gemmas definition is a good one.

There are three primary ways in which confirmation bias affects us:

  1. Searching for information
  2. Evaluating information
  3. Remembering information

An example of the first way would be only looking at information that already confirms your beliefs, say a website that has a specific viewpoint that it touts over all others.  

An example of the second way would be changing your view of information based on who you are told said it, for example if a quote is attributed to David Cameron vs Tony Blair  or Barack Obama vs George W. Bush.  Even if the information is exactly the same you might evaluate it differently based on your view of the person who is said to have said it.  This is also where you might be more willing to dismiss information you disagree with while accepting information that confirms your beliefs.  For example lets say you think dogs are better pets than cats.  You are more likely to accept without questioning it a study that shows that dogs love their owners more than cats, than you would a study that says the opposite.

Finally, remembering information. You might be more likely to remember past information that confirms your beliefs and ignore or place lower priority on information that contradicts it.  For example, if you believe the stereotyped view that asians are bad drivers, you are more likely to remember any incidents where you saw an asian driver doing something wrong, and less likely to remember all the times where they drove properly OR where non-asian drivers also drove dangerously.

As Gemma points out in your chair example, your more likely to remember the one time the chair actually was dirty than all the times where it wasn't and place greater emphasis on that.

OCD sufferers tend to over value thoughts, ideas, evidence etc. that supports their fears while dismissing the evidence that doesn't, and thus get a distorted view of reality.  As a results they think the risk is much much MUCH higher than it actually is and that their fears are somehow justified.

For example a person who is afraid of injury from an automobile might point to a story about a car crash and say "aha, see I was right, cars ARE dangerous!", ignoring that the overwhelming majority of people who use cars everyday do so without serious incident.

This is also the phenomenon at play for a lot of "psychic" predictions.  You are told something relatively vague, you ignore all the times where the thing doesn't come true, and when something does fit the rather vague premise you say "aha! they were right! I was going to meet a dark handsome stranger".  It was true one time out of how many?  But you focus on the one time it was true, distorting reality.

Understanding and identifying these types of cognitive distortions can help you untangle yourself from the web of OCD.  Maybe you can identify some other areas where you are unintentionally applying confirmation bias in dealing with your intrusive thoughts.

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1 hour ago, Lollipop said:

So is this an aspect of what's meant by 'cognitive work'? Thanks 😊 

Yes it helps explain how we think and how that then affects our future behaviours :)

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23 hours ago, Gemma7 said:

Yes if I'm understanding correctly. If you saw blood on a chair that you would have checked, it might reinforce the behaviour of checking, in other words the belief that it is needed. You would probably also forget all the times where you checked and there was nothing. That is confirmation bias. 

Perhaps in doing lots of checks you think your surroundings are not normal but it's more that things don't feel right, rather than they aren't right. OCD can make you very sensitivity to feelings of doubt. Are you getting any help for your OCD? 

I understand it now thank you! And that makes more sense, I am getting help yes

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10 hours ago, dksea said:

Hi @Natalie Hodgkinson and welcome to the forums!  Sorry to hear about your struggles, I hope you find help here!

Understanding confirmation bias can be a big help in overcoming OCD (and help with life in general), its a good question to ask!  Gemmas definition is a good one.

There are three primary ways in which confirmation bias affects us:

  1. Searching for information
  2. Evaluating information
  3. Remembering information

An example of the first way would be only looking at information that already confirms your beliefs, say a website that has a specific viewpoint that it touts over all others.  

An example of the second way would be changing your view of information based on who you are told said it, for example if a quote is attributed to David Cameron vs Tony Blair  or Barack Obama vs George W. Bush.  Even if the information is exactly the same you might evaluate it differently based on your view of the person who is said to have said it.  This is also where you might be more willing to dismiss information you disagree with while accepting information that confirms your beliefs.  For example lets say you think dogs are better pets than cats.  You are more likely to accept without questioning it a study that shows that dogs love their owners more than cats, than you would a study that says the opposite.

Finally, remembering information. You might be more likely to remember past information that confirms your beliefs and ignore or place lower priority on information that contradicts it.  For example, if you believe the stereotyped view that asians are bad drivers, you are more likely to remember any incidents where you saw an asian driver doing something wrong, and less likely to remember all the times where they drove properly OR where non-asian drivers also drove dangerously.

As Gemma points out in your chair example, your more likely to remember the one time the chair actually was dirty than all the times where it wasn't and place greater emphasis on that.

OCD sufferers tend to over value thoughts, ideas, evidence etc. that supports their fears while dismissing the evidence that doesn't, and thus get a distorted view of reality.  As a results they think the risk is much much MUCH higher than it actually is and that their fears are somehow justified.

For example a person who is afraid of injury from an automobile might point to a story about a car crash and say "aha, see I was right, cars ARE dangerous!", ignoring that the overwhelming majority of people who use cars everyday do so without serious incident.

This is also the phenomenon at play for a lot of "psychic" predictions.  You are told something relatively vague, you ignore all the times where the thing doesn't come true, and when something does fit the rather vague premise you say "aha! they were right! I was going to meet a dark handsome stranger".  It was true one time out of how many?  But you focus on the one time it was true, distorting reality.

Understanding and identifying these types of cognitive distortions can help you untangle yourself from the web of OCD.  Maybe you can identify some other areas where you are unintentionally applying confirmation bias in dealing with your intrusive thoughts.

This is really helpful to know @dksea thank you!

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