As Ivan and I took our first tentative steps onto the path of healing through whole foods, I began to research online, read many books, and talk to a variety of practitioners about a wide range of topics. I soon began to realize that there are many conclusions out there and a lot of them contradict each other. Have you seen this dynamic, as well?
At one point I was sitting at the kitchen table and began to cry. “What if I do something which makes the situation worse for you?!” My husband was very reassuring and realistic, bringing me out of an emotional place to a more logical perspective. “Just get the information, let’s talk it over and do the best we can do,” he wisely responded. Stressing over the conflicting information and worrying over what side of it we should come down on would have its own deleterious effect on our health.
This scenario made me remember a section of Dr. Andy Newberg’s book Why We Believe What We Believe where he wrote about bias. After reading his explanation of how and why we make the decisions we do, I began to see confirmation bias alive and well in myself and others.
Dr. Newberg lists 27 ways our brains distort reality through bias. There are a few reoccurring themes which I want to share (already demonstrating my confirmation bias):
Authoritarian Bias: Believing people of power and status over others.
Confirmation Bias: Emphasizing information that supports our beliefs while unconsciously ignoring or rejecting information that contradicts them.
Self-Serving Bias: Maintaining beliefs that benefit only our own interests and goals.
Bandwagon Bias: Tendency to go along with beliefs of whatever group we are involved in.
Perseverance Bias: Continuing to insist that a specific belief is true even when confronted with contradictory evidence.
Persuasion Bias: The more dramatic and emotional the presenter, the more we tend to believe.
Publication Bias: Publications that show positive outcomes and tend to exclude work/research that have a negative outcome as well as that anything published must be true.
The other day I was looking something up online and Googled the term. I looked first for the links which seemed to support the way I was leaning on the topic. I read through them first and then read through some of the opposing views–just to see if they could sway me to their side. Then I laughed at myself. I was vividly demonstrating confirmation bias to myself.
There are many examples of how bias impacts everyone’s decisions relating to health, nutrition and eating. Usually we have certain beliefs already–through which we filter incoming information. For example, I know people who believe that vitamins are a waste of money. There is nothing I or anyone else can say or studies they could read which will convince them otherwise.
When we were considering who to place our confidence in relating to advice being given about what we should do and what we should not do, we began to understand another aspect of confirmation bias: the surrender our personal authority to professionals who understand a situation and its dynamics better than we do—IF we trust those professionals, right?
Even when we have surrendered our personal authority relating to our health decisions, Ivan and I still retain a perspective that when the advice being given to us conflicts strongly with our confirmation bias, we check in on that point and make a decision to either follow the advice, or not to follow it. Dr. Mohammad was very wise in saying to me, “Ivan is the captain of his experience.” There have been times when we do not share the same confirmation bias, but during times like that, we have been able to allow each other to have our individual confirmation bias and not turn it into a point of contention between us.
Not everyone is going to agree with every point of the Misner Plan and that is okay! We are just here to share what worked for us and why we came to the conclusions we did in the hopes that some of the positive changes you want to make can be supported and encouraged here.