Self Improvement

Mandy Kloppers

You see what you want to believe

BRAINADE! the Brain Grenade by Emilio Garcia
BRAINADE! the Brain Grenade by Emilio Garcia (Photo credit: “lapolab”)

Confirmation Bias

Have you ever heard of the term “confirmation bias”? In psychology, this term refers to the tendency to seek out evidence in life that confirms our beliefs about the world. This type of thinking leads to many cognitive distortions such as “black and white” thinking, negative filtering, catastrophising, emotional reasoning, overgeneralisation, fallacy of fairness and rigid thinking (such as “I must” or “I should”). Many of us have distorted thinking and our attempts to make reality fit our thinking can lead to distress and unhappiness.

We all use cognitive shortcuts in order to make sense of the world around us. I suspect that with the information overload we currently experience, cognitive shortcuts will increase as we struggle to process so much information on a daily basis. Cognitive shortcuts (or lazy thinking) include stereo typing, over generalising and engaging in quick decision-making about others without all the facts. The danger of cognitive shortcuts is that we tend to form opinions indirectly. Many of us have opinions about what we see in the media yet very few of us have researched and verified the facts ourselves.

Critical thinking is imperative if we want to have a pure interpretation of the world. Many of us have distorted filters through which we view the world. We constantly add to these filters as we gain more experience in life. For example, if your parents played “mental games” with you as a child, you most likely have learnt  dysfunctional strategies to help you cope with stress as an adult. as children we often feel powerless against our parents and we are unable to directly confront certain situations with them. This results in passive aggressive behaviour to deal with the stress.

Being aware of your thinking and how this may be affecting your views on the world is important in terms of maintaining mental sanity.

Challenge your thinking regularly and ask yourself where the evidence for your thinking exists. Be aware of your filters, for example, when you overgeneralise about things when you stereotype-example: all dogs are dangerous. your thoughts create your reality more than you realise. You can choose to think positive empowering thoughts or you can choose to believe the worst about everything. The quality of your thoughts affect your emotions and you may-surely you would want to hold onto happy positive thoughts that work for you rather than negative thoughts that make you miserable?

Mandy X


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