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Does Confirmation Bias Help Us Weigh Less?

By Joey Havens

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I am working diligently to keep my weight at 195 pounds. As part of my early morning ritual, I weigh and record my weight almost every morning. Yes, I write it down because it creates more accountability as I reflect on my track record daily and keeps me focused on my goal.

Recently, I noticed that my confirmation bias was steadily creeping in on me. My weight tends to fluctuate at times and I can suddenly weigh three pounds more or three pounds less. Usually when this happens, it’s up. But how is that possible? Most days it’s pretty consistent but at least two or three times a month I get one of these fluctuations. Guess what my confirmation bias was doing to me?

If I step up on the scale and I weigh two or three pounds less than the day before, I step down, smile, congratulate myself for working so hard and wonder (just briefly) why that steak, popcorn or ice cream I had last night didn’t spoil my results? But, oh well, my plan is clearly working and I deserve these excellent results.

A week later, I step up on the scale and I suddenly weigh three pounds more than yesterday. WHOA! Something must be wrong with the scale, so I weigh again. Maybe the batteries are low. Okay, I will weigh again when I get out of the shower—like I had three pounds of dirt on me. The simple fact is, I have received information that does not fit my desired outlook, beliefs and assumptions.

When I get a favorable variance, I never step back up on the scale to make sure it is working properly! No, I run over to my calendar and record the new weight as it supports my belief that I am making progress and deserve this great outcome. As soon as I get an unfavorable variance, I immediately assume something is wrong with the scale—this can’t be my fault, right? Unfortunately, I noticed I have bought a few unnecessary batteries too.

This is classic confirmation bias that sneaks up on us. It has never been stronger than it is today with all of the change we are experiencing in our businesses. We are clinging to wins that have followed our traditional business approach; although, if we stop and reflect, we might be having fewer of them or they might be decreasing in size. Due to confirmation bias, we immediately assume that these changes will not affect our clients and us as much as we are hearing and reading about. We hope that maybe this EXPONENTIAL change will be incremental like it has for the last 50 years and we will be able to react as we always have. When we get a bad event, a lost client, a new competitor from outside our profession, we are tempted to discount this event. It’s not a trend, an aberration and this new threat or technology will certainly not upset our business model and client relationships. We have the strongest relationships in the profession, right? Can we feel ourselves stepping back up on the scale? Can we feel ourselves gravitating to wins that support the status quo?

Our brains are wired to use confirmation bias to protect us and help us feel good about where we are. It’s only by keeping this front of mind and being intentional to challenge our beliefs, assumptions and business model with all new information that we can achieve a mindset that is truly open-minded. A mindset that allows us to move fast enough and to anticipate the exponential change in front of us. Stop and think if you find yourself stepping back up on the scale when you get a bad reading. Does anyone have any extra batteries?