Confirmational Bias and Self Deception
The Danger of Confirmational Bias
“Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray.”
The age of information has become the age of misinformation. The amount of information that is available on the internet is mind-boggling. It is reported that 328.77 million terabytes of data are created daily on the internet, and around 120 zettabytes of data will be generated this year. To put this in perspective, using a two-terabyte hard drive as the basis of comparison, the information that will be added today on the internet will be the equivalent of approximately 160 million external hard drives. It is estimated that in 2023, 120 zettabytes will be added to the internet. A zettabyte is 1 billion terabytes. This year there will be added to the internet the equivalent of 60 billion external hard drives. So how does the internet sort through all this information to give you the answer you desire when you search the internet? The search engines use algorithms that are based on each individual’s searches. It analyzes the information you search for and then uses this information to determine what will pop up on your screen. In other words, it gives you information that confirms your bias. Thus today, we live in the age of confirmational bias. Confirmational bias is our tendency to seek information that supports our pre-existing beliefs and expectations. We look for information that confirms our biases, and the internet then gives us the information to confirm it. Consequently, the greatest threat to us being deceived by false information is ourselves.
Throughout the Prophetic literature, the prophets warn against false prophets who lead people astray. False teachers are so popular that they tell them what they want to hear. Instead of proclaiming the message of God, which confronts them with sin and warns them of impending judgment, they gather around them prophets who promise that “Is not the Lord in our midst? Calamity will not come upon us” (verses 11). In other words, God is on our side, and there is no judgment for sin. These prophets do not conform people with the need for repentance and change. Instead of upholding God’s standard of holiness and obedience to his law, they minimize God’s word and reject any passages that do not fit their narrative.
So how do we avoid falling into the same pit of misguided information? How do we avoid the danger of confirmational bias? The answer lies in the source we look towards for our moral instruction. First, we must turn to the Bible and allow it to speak to us. The Bible is the sole and final authority on God’s truth and morality. Therefore, we must first turn to it rather than to people to discover the truth. In Acts 17:10-11, Paul commends the church for “they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” In other words, they used the Bible as their standard of truth. Second, we need to evaluate the people and teachers we listen to. Do they affirm the teaching of scripture or minimize it by deconstructing the text to fit their teaching? In other words, do they point to the authority of the bible, or do they minimize its authority and conform the bible to the narrative they want and to conform it to our modern morality? To protect ourselves from our biases, we need to see the Bible as the source of truth and then allow the Bible to determine what we believe rather than conform the Bible to what we want to believe.