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The ‘smart,’ hence lazy, brain!

February 24, 2018

I have always wondered about the reasons people display a marked "confirmation bias" and the flip side, "cognitive dissonance?"  Both of these tend to create much strife in people’s lives – sometimes leading to disruptions in relationships, and maybe even in a person leading a truly fulfilled life.


As with other aspects,  these traits are seen very easily in others – and most not aware about their own behaviour. Like one cannot see the back of their own head in 3D, another has to give honest feedback. And after receiving feedback appropriately, one can maybe make a beginning with introspecting and reflecting on one’s own attitude, behaviour and all that lies under that.


I have been pondering a while now on the reason for confirmation biases and cognitive dissonance. I introspected upon my own behaviour. I have been reading and acquiring knowledge and information on the neurological underpinnings of human behaviour. And with what I have gathered so far, I find that there is most likely a neurological twist – that both confirmation biases and cognitive dissonance occur because the brain is most energy-hungry (and hence energy-efficient too.)


What is confirmation bias? When one would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views, beliefs and hence, biases and prejudices they would like to be true. It is almost like fitting the data and the steps in solving the equation to fit the answer that they have chosen to believe is the right answer.


What is cognitive dissonance? The introduction piece in Wikipedia sums it up thus: “In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. The occurrence of cognitive dissonance is a consequence of a person performing an action that contradicts personal beliefs, ideals, and values; and also occurs when confronted with new information that contradicts said beliefs, ideals, and values.”


So, a confirmation bias might be the way a person handles the cognitive dissonance that they experience! And the innate “laziness” of the brain might be the reason for both!