Listening to the renewal of Brexit hostilities there’s one side of the argument upping the anti and the other desperately downplaying. Ture enough, those of us who have retained out sanity know that they can’t both be right. A New Year has not brought new wisdom.
In general, the deep trenches of “bias” take a lot of effort to climb out of. And that’s not just bias on one side or the other, that’s the general phenomena of bias.
As humans, here’s what we do. In the first case there’s optimism bias. I often see this in the write-ups of aviation accidents and incidents.
Generally, people overestimate their chances. It’s often advantageous in that such an approach can make us work harder and see goals as achievable, come what may. I know not everyone can be above average but who admits to being average? Brexiters who say: No Deal – No Problem have this in buckets and spades. Excessive optimism bias is a way to crash and it’s certainly not good if you are a compulsive gambler.
Next on the list is confirmation bias. Our amazing human capacity to imagine what might happen next is a huge asset. Unfortunately, there’s a tendency to establish a theory and then find facts, real of imaginary, to confirm that theory. This is a major danger. To avoid a crash, it’s often good to have a theory but then retain the willingness to question it. When time is pressing it may not be so easy to question but question is best. And if changed or new facts say do something different don’t throw them away for a matter of pride.
The next one is a thinking bias called the Dunning–Kruger effect. This is not a popular one to talk about. It’s when people to fail to recognise their own lack of ability. Numerous general aviation accidents and incidents have this one at the root. When tested competent students often underestimated their class rank, and the incompetent students overestimated theirs.
I might like to think that I could win an argument with the great statesmen and stateswomen of history, and point out the flaws in their thinking but in truth – No. Well, my success rate would be low. Radio talk shows feed on this effect by pitching callers against a well-seasoned politician. It maybe entertaining but it does help to illuminate a problem.
How to stay safe? Take an inventory of my own biases. What sources do I use to come to a view? Do I understand how my biases formed my view? Yes, that’s the one I speak out on.
Can we all do this and step back from the Brexit crash? I don’t know.