Overcoming Confirmation Bias

Dr. Keith WittDefenses, Ethical, Intrapersonal, Moral, Perspectives, Psychology, Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith 2 Comments

Become a supporting member to watch the full conversation

Humanity is entering the Transformation Age, a new era of human civilization, with Integral Consciousness rising at its leading edge. Our members don’t use Integral Life as just another media subscription they use weekly or discard. Instead, most stay with us for years, using Integral Life to learn Integral Philosophy and build an integral mind slowly, methodically and when they need it. We’re here to help you shape the future that’s emerging no matter where your life takes you.

Get Full Access For $1 (30 days)* Or explore all membership plans → * Trial price for the first 30 days, then $20/month. Cancel or switch plans in 2 minutes at any time.

r. Keith and Corey explore the two primary forms of reasoning — confirmatory reasoning, otherwise known as “confirmation bias”, and exploratory reasoning, which considers multiple perspectives and anticipates criticism and objection to one’s views and positions.

Most of us like to think we have already overcome our own confirmation bias, but this is rarely the case. The vast majority of us are operating via confirmatory reasoning every day of our lives, punctuated by brief occasions of explanatory reasoning. This is particularly true in the social media age, when external algorithms are unconsciously reinforcing our worldviews with every click and fragmenting us into clashing cults of information.

Because that’s the key to exploratory reasoning — we only tend to do it when we know that we must engage with others who might be more intelligent and well-informed than ourselves, and whose views are unknown to us.

When was the last time you experienced that on Facebook?

On the other hand, when we are primarily engaging with people who’s views we already know (or assume to know, as is more often the case), we tend to resort to our confirmatory reasoning as a way to reinforce our credibility or social status.

And when we are talking to people we perceive as overly hostile or aggressive, we tend to abandon reason altogether.

When was the last time you experienced THAT on Facebook?

Watch as Dr. Keith and Corey explore these two critical types of reasoning, and how our critical and moral reasoning evolves as we shift into more integral stages of development.

Moral Reasoning and the Shift to 2nd Tier

Dr. Keith Witt

Most of us make instantaneous decisions about right and wrong, safe or unsafe, based on unconscious associations, defensive programming, and cultural conditioning. We have a vast adaptive unconscious—what I call our Shadow—which communicates to us via emotions, impulses and stories for better (constructive Shadow) or worse (destructive Shadow). As soon as we have a moral position/feeling/judgment we instinctively look for rationalizations to support it. We can question and explore such decisions to look for deeper truths, but this is rare.

Two forms of moral reasoning are exploratory reasoning and confirmatory reasoning.

Exploratory moral reasoning — not having a firm opinion, looking from different perspectives, and making a reasoned decision.

Real exploratory moral reasoning hardly ever happens, but for over two hundred years, social scientists maintained it was how people made moral decisions.

  • Kohlberg asked moral reasoning questions, but that’s not how most of our moral decisions are made.
  • People can learn exploratory moral reasoning but need to be able to first observe their reflexive intuitive moral reasoning (confirmatory reasoning).
  • We crave approval from our social contexts and have trouble with exploratory moral reasoning that might be disapproved of by cultures we identify with.
  • We are more likely to use exploratory moral reasoning if we believe we are being observed by a knowledgeable and competent audience.

Confirmatory moral reasoning — we have a reflexive moral response and immediately look for rationalizations to support it.

This is called “confirmation bias” and most people do it constantly.

  • Hume was one of the first modern philosophers to suggest that the passions guided the mind far more than the mind guided the passions.
  • There is a vast literature that supports confirmatory reasoning as the primary mode of moral reasoning for humans.
  • Lessic Wilakowski’s “Infinite cornucopia” is a major resource for confirmatory moral reasoning via google.
  • We embrace confirming material as in “Can this material support my position?”
  • We resist non-confirming material as in “Must I change my position in the face of this data?”
  • From an Integral standard, development requires confirmatory reasoning to be included and transcended into exploratory moral reasoning.

Awareness regulates

We can be aware of our moral snap judgments and do polarity thinking (Beena Sharma’s polarity work is a great example) on whatever issue or situation arises, but this requires 2nd tier altitudes to avoid 1st tier blindspots.

Doing this is challenging, because we’re simultaneously informed by all our moral systems, based on at least 6 dimensions which developed as moral solutions to evolutionary problems (taken from The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt). These dimensions include:

  1. Care/harm
  2. Fairness/cheating
  3. Loyalty/betrayal
  4. Authority/subversion
  5. Sanctity/degradation
  6. Liberty/oppression

All six of these reflect emergent problems in human tribes that needed reflexive moral reactions to adjust towards prosocial positions which would ultimately give the tribe a competitive edge.

Observing violations of these six dimensions often evokes moral disgust. Disgust evolved as an affect to guard the mouth from contamination, but has been integrated into guarding the social holon from disapproval, contamination, and exclusion.

Observing moral beauty on any of these six dimensions often evokes warm loving feelings of moral elevation and desires to be a better person.

We have Wise Self at every moral level and altitude. Our Wise Self can always provide the most good, the most beautiful, and the most true perspectives available, but will always be interpreted (and rationalized) through our current moral center of gravity.

In psychotherapy we activate the client’s Wise Self and encourage the client to do moral reasoning from the Wise Self position, and to even engage in dialogues with others selves. If Wise Self disagrees with a previous opinion, it can create positive confusion, and even changed perspectives.

To influence others, it doesn’t work to debate, attack, or condemn. It does help to empathize, look for shared ground, and take a gentle exploratory, curious attitude.

If a person believes their group has changed a perspective, then they are more likely to change that perspective.

In Integrally informed psychotherapy this Wise Self process is played out through the therapist’s AQAL understanding of the client and therapist and the various cultures they are embedded in.

Music by Justin Miles and Stuart Davis

Free Email Course: Build Your Integral Life

We created 24 free lessons that can help you learn the Integrative Mindset needed to thrive in the rapidly-evolving world of the 21st century. Enter your email to start the course:

Previous  Episodes  of  Witt  &  Wisdom
The Art of Integral Conversation: How to Have a Turquoise Dialectic

The Art of Integral Conversation: How to Have a Turquoise Dialectic

Cognitive Defenses Emotional Interpersonal Intrapersonal Leadership Psychology Self-Identity Video Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith
Dr. Keith Witt and Corey deVos explore the concept of "turquoise dialectic" - a sophisticated form of integral discourse that...
Watch Now
CANCELLED: The Battle for Free Speech in the Integral Age

CANCELLED: The Battle for Free Speech in the Integral Age

Cognitive Defenses Emotional How should we relate to the social justice movement? Moral Psychology Video Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith
Keith Witt and Corey delve into the complex and contentious issue of cancel culture, examining its implications for free speech,...
Watch Now
The Psychology of Splitting

The Psychology of Splitting

Cognitive Defenses Emotional Interpersonal Intrapersonal Psychology Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith
Watch as Dr. Keith and Corey explore the psychological process of splitting, revealing how awareness and regulation of these processes...
Watch Now
From the Cambrian Explosion to the Human Explosion

From the Cambrian Explosion to the Human Explosion

Cognitive Existential Moral Psychology Video What is a more hopeful future for civilization? Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith
Dr. Keith and Corey explore the parallels and differences between the Cambrian explosion and the rapid evolution of human consciousness,...
Watch Now
Why Greater Depth Means Greater Responsibility

Why Greater Depth Means Greater Responsibility

Cognitive Defenses Emotional Interpersonal Psychology Spiritual Video What is human development? Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith
Watch as Dr. Keith Witt and Corey deVos delve into the profound interdependence between human development and responsibility, exploring how...
Watch Now
Integral Perspectives on Alcoholism

Integral Perspectives on Alcoholism

Defenses Intrapersonal Psychology Video Volitional Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith
Alcohol addiction is a deeply entrenched issue that affects a significant portion of the population, with around 10% of children...
Watch Now
Toward an Integral Meta-Psychotherapy

Toward an Integral Meta-Psychotherapy

Cognitive Interpersonal Intrapersonal Psychology Video Witt & Wisdom: Live with Dr. Keith
Imagine a therapy where everything is interconnected, where every moment is a golden opportunity, and where the journey is as...
Watch Now
+View All

Dr. Keith Witt

About Keith Witt

Dr. Keith Witt is a Licensed Psychologist, teacher, and author who has lived and worked in Santa Barbara, CA. for over forty years. Dr. Witt is also the founder of The School of Love.

Corey deVos

About Corey deVos

Corey W. deVos is editor and producer of Integral Life. He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996. Corey is also a professional woodworker, and many of his artworks can be found in his VisionLogix art gallery.