People have the tendency of proving to others and themselves that they are right when it comes to what they do and what they say. It is simply a mechanic to protect the person’s ego based on the notion that nobody likes it when they are proven wrong. McRaney’s “Confirmation Bias,” “Hindsight Bias,” “Backfire Effect,” and “Brand Loyalty” essays discuss the misconceptions that people often have when it comes to established preconceived ideas and dismantling the fallacies to reveal the psychological truth behind the justifications. All four essays share the similar concept pertaining to the human phenomenon of adjusting justifications to legitimize their claims.
The ability to selectively choose certain information to bolster one’s position is prominent in everyday human behavior. The average individual usually has the human instinct to desire being proven correct. The blind pursuit of infallibility makes individuals susceptible to denial in order to cope with the egotistical notion that they can do no wrong. McRaney’s “Confirmation Bias” and “Backfire Effect” essays reflect the fallacy of specifically choosing certain pieces of information to confirm their viewpoint alone. Both misconceptions deal with the effect that information has on a person whereupon they seek to strengthen their beliefs based on that same knowledge. The “Confirmation Bias” deals with separating and choosing particular information to confirm their opinions while also ignoring those that “challenged your preconceived notions.” McRaney further illustrates a succinct example of the fallacy in real-world events, “If you are thinking about buying a particular make of a new car, you suddenly see people driving that car all over the roads. If you just ended a longtime relationship, every song you hear seems to be written about love. If you are having a baby, you start to see babies everywhere. Confirmation bias is seeing the world through a filter” (28). People search for things that aligns itself with their opinion. If it agrees with their perspective, they pick and choose that specific information to further increase the legitimacy of their belief. This concept is also associated with the “Backfire Effect” essay in that they both strengthen the beliefs of an individual. The fallacy occurs “when your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence” therefore “your beliefs get stronger.” Similar to the first misconception, segmented information stimulates the strengthening of an individual’s beliefs. The two fallacies are not taking into account the possibility of being incorrect and instead pursues to only benefit the initial ideas. Conceptually, the separation of such information can help an individual’s position when it comes to intellectual arguments. However, the problem lies within the social approach in which individuals integrate the fallacies into their behavior, creating a toxic perspective of “one can do no wrong” resulting in the constant denial of important information that debunks their reasoning even with simple things that require only common sense. The instinctual denial deters people from becoming educated as they subconsciously choose to remain ignorant. An example McRaney cites is of Barack Obama’s heritage, “this is why hard-core doubters who believe Barack Obama was not born in the United States will never be satisfied with any amount of evidence put forth suggesting otherwise.” Ignorant individuals are choosing only to satisfy their ego no matter how absurd their opinion might be. They pick and choose what strengthens their statements while ignoring the information that prove otherwise.
The other two essays that McRaney writes about includes the “Hindsight Bias” and the “Brand Loyalty.” These two fallacies involve the shifting of responsibility to make it seem like the individual has always been right all along. The desire to protect their position while avoiding the incorrect side of the spectrum stems from the social stigma of shame when an individual makes a mistake (no matter how insignificant). McRaney’s “Hindsight Bias” states that “you often look back on the things you’ve just learned and assume you knew them or believed them all along.” The tendency to adjust answers afterwards or the justifications of one’s actions in order to directly shield one’s morality are prime examples of the bias. According to McRaney, the hindsight bias is: “You tend to edit your memories so you don’t seem like such a dimwit when things happen you couldn’t have predicted. When you learn things you wish you had known all along, you go ahead and assume you did know them” (32). By using this tactic, it becomes that much easier to convince one’s self that they weren’t wrong in order to preserve the individual’s pride. Another similar misconception to “Hindsight Bias” that people also commit is the “Brand Loyalty” fallacy. McRaney describes it as “you prefer the things you own because you rationalize your past choices to protect your sense of self.” Much like the “Hindsight Bias,” this fallacy likewise commits the flaw so that the individual may prevent themselves from hurting their pride. It is another defense mechanic used to validate the previous choices made so they might not have to face the fact that they have committed on behalf of an incorrect judgement. In the essay, the statement “they altered their memories to match their emotions” are significantly similar to the “Hindsight Bias” as the tendency to edit memories is another fault perpetrated to protect the individual. Another statement McRaney makes is that “once a person is branded, that person will defend the brand by finding flaws in the alternative choice and pointing out benefits in his or her own.” This last fallacy integrates the other three previous misconceptions, supporting the connection between all four essays. They converge upon one another to illustrate how the individual manipulates outside information and their own statements to benefit the position they hold.
The problem with all four fallacies is the fact that these misconceptions are psychologically embedded in the human psyche, resulting in the manipulation of certain information to satisfy an individual’s selfish desire. The stigma of being proven wrong ultimately comes from the social construct that society has created. People collectively think it is shameful to be incorrect and therefore, they establish ways to avoid that stigmatized shame. According to McRaney, “there are a number of cognitive biases that converge to create this behavior.” Attesting to that is the combination of all four fallacies to create that which is the “Brand Loyalty” misconception. Elements within each fallacy plays into one another as they essentially have the same concept to illustrate; which require manipulative tactics to preserve the individual’s pride.
It is the effort to unravel these misconceptions that will help a person steeped in denial recover, in order to educate themselves further with the important subjects that they remain so ignorant about so as to satisfy the individual’s ego. The four essays which include “Confirmation Bias,” “Backfire Effect,” “Hindsight Bias,” and “Brand Loyalty” correlate to one another in terms of the concept that humankind chooses to input some form of manipulation of information to easily confirm their own beliefs alone. The truth is not sought as they instead try to satisfy their preconceived notions to avoid the shame that comes when the person is erroneous. This is precisely why many individuals today are so insistent upon base assumptions despite overwhelming evidence against their beliefs. The human instinct which is ingrained in a person’s mind and behavior aspire to gratify emotions first prior to logic, resulting in countless uninformed people who are too stubborn to welcome information that would potentially damage the individual’s self-pride.