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Confirmation Bias is Important for Men to Understand

Investing in equity markets can be extremely vexing, especially when there is significant market volatility. One of the biggest mistakes made by ordinary investors is to hypothesize that the long term trend of the market is in a specific direction and then search for an abundance of evidence that supports that hypothesis, while ignoring all of the contrarian evidence. Such behavior is referred to as confirmation bias. Have you ever found yourself conjuring all sorts of detailed facts to convince yourself that your favorite football team is going to win, despite the fact that the team is not very good and is more likely to lose? This is another form of confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is the gathering or remembering of information in a selective way that tends to favor or confirm ones beliefs or hypotheses. The bias is stronger for emotionally charged or entrenched beliefs. Confirmation bias is an innate human characteristic, and even the most seasoned scientists are plagued by confirmation bias when they let their guard down. Human memory is very susceptible to confirmation bias; we tend to selectively recall information that supports our expectations. When we gather information to examine a hypothesis, we also tend to give greater weight to the initial information gathered. This is another form of confirmation bias. It gives us great comfort to imagine that our belief system is solidly built around logical, rational, and objective analysis of information, but the reality is that we tend to pay most attention to information that supports our belief system and ignore that which does not.

When a man actively dates in search for a long term partner, one of the most important things he does is to decide whether or not he wants to pursue that next date. Ideally, the man will pay very close attention to the behavioral characteristics of his date as well as the verbal and non-verbal cues she projects to him. He should sort out all of the information he collects and analyze whether or not his date can fulfill his expectations for a long term partner. It may take a number of personal encounters with his date to collect enough information to make such a determination.

The reality is that the ideal dating scenario described above is rarely realized. Instead, the initial attraction for a man to his date, which might include beauty, style, warm personality, etc…, becomes a dominating influence on his analysis. Because of that initial attraction, he is predisposed to want or believe that his date can fulfill his long term expectations and that she is the girl of his dreams. Men are definitely predisposed to confirmation bias. Because confirmation bias is an innate human trait, men have a tendency to put a lot more weight on the positive characteristics of their date than the negative ones. Men may even selectively forget about negative characteristics to support their desire to believe that their date is the woman of their dreams.

Men who have been stuck in a long term relationship that is unfulfilling are also subject to confirmation bias. There is a tendency to want to believe that the relationship will improve and hang on to the positive elements of the relationship while selectively forgetting about destructive past behavior accumulated over a long period.

In the Thriteen Steps, I recommend that men maintain a dating journal, and many men have asked me whether or not it is really necessary. Maintaining a dating journal is an excellent way to help men minimize confirmation bias when analyzing their relationshhip with a woman. When a man is disciplined to take the time to write down his experiences from personal encounters after each date, he has a tendency to be more analytical. The dating journal protects against selective memory recall. The dating journal is a powerful tool for men to take a look back and assess the quality of their relationship with a woman, whether it is in the early stages or well established. It is a tool that helps men cope with confirmation bias so that they are adequately equipped to make more rational decisions around their dating experiences. 



1. Use of Electronic Dating Sites by Divorced Men

2. Confirmation Bias is Important for Men to Understand