It always comes down to choice even if a person does not believe there are choices or all the choices seems painful. A person struggling with addiction will often choose the least painful option, which may well be continuing to use their Drug or Behavior of Choice. Some people feel the choice to stop using is not really a choice at all. But if that were true, then all those people that abuse or become dependent on drugs or alcohol would not be able to stop. The majority of soldiers returning from Vietnam would not have stopped using drugs after reconnecting to their families, friends and communities.
The idea of choice applies to all forms of addiction, whether it be to table salt, theological dogma, political ideology, sex, money, work, exercise, food, drugs, or gambling. Choice is a predominant factor in any decision making. If a person is addicted to some kind of dogma, and they are asked to change that dogma, they may say “I can’t, that is the how I was raised and this is what I believe.” In other words if you were indoctrinated in certain theological or political dogma, then you could not choose to change it. If people are being honest with themselves, they would say something like, “changing my beliefs is too painful.” “My beliefs being not true or wrong is agonizing and upsetting.” You keep your beliefs and behaviors because it easier than accommodating or choosing something different. You become so invested and attached to those beliefs systems being true that the notion they may not be absolute can become traumatizing.
People literally kill over having their beliefs challenged or minimized. This is nothing new and has been going on since homo sapiens colonized at least 70,000 years ago. The only reason we haven’t haven’t killed ourselves off, according to Yuval Harari, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, is that we have figured out how to get along with each other and cooperate in large numbers. But this flexibility is tested when people demonize other groups and cultures, take a victim stance and become intolerant and unable to embrace diversity or experience empathy for those that differ from us.
Humans seem to be comfortable creating or embracing the monster under the bed, in another house, town, or country. Being tolerant, embracing diversity and practicing empathy is a choice. We should ask ourselves: Does diversity make us stronger? Or does it dilute the and weaken the waters of humanity? Regardless of one’s stance, we have developed a bias that confirms our point of view. This is known as confirmation bias.
In his book, You’re not so Smart, David McRaney writes that most people struggle under the misconception what they think is true. People do not understand how they came to believe what they do and why. Under his chapter for confirmation bias McRaney states:
“The Misconception: Your opinions are the result of years of rational, objective analysis.
The Truth: Your opinions are the result of years of paying attention to information which confirmed what you believed while ignoring information which challenged your preconceived notions.” (David McRaney, 2011)
So, is confirmation bias a choice if we don’t know we are making it? Of course it is. If I am too stupid to realize that I have bias and prejudice towards other people, places or things, whose problem is it? It is my problem. Self delusion is the biggest, most encompassing problem that humans struggle with. If you don’t believe you have delusions or a denial problem, then the idea that you could not have an issue with denial, then that idea is in and of itself a denial problem. Everyone has confirmation bias; everyone! It is very difficult if not impossible to be completely objective because confirmation bias is a personal lens we created to pursue a truth about ourselves and the world. We see what we want to see to confirm our bias.
Bias and assumptions go hand in hand, and both can be inaccurate. If I like a particular soda and I see someone drinking that soda, it may confirm or validate my choice in that soda. This can apply to theological and political affiliations. And it’s important to be aware that confirmation bias can be positive or negative. If I meet someone who has similar societal beliefs as I do, I may attribute a positive bias toward them. If someone has different societal beliefs, I may attribute negative bias toward them. People want to feel right about how they perceive the world and look for people and systems that will confirm that bias. We look for things that confirm our point of view.
Confirmation bias is a precursor to addiction because it leads to disconnecting from people often based on ideology; while isolation and prejudice toward people who think or look different than we do only distorts the lens we see ourselves and the world through. Confirmation bias is a choice even though the self awareness of its existence may not seem like one. “I am the way I am.” Bullshit, you are the way you have learned to be, the way you choose to be. Social media is a perfect example of confirmation bias, we tend to have friends that share the beliefs and bias as we do, and when they don’t, those friends become unfriended. This has been the case over many election cycles.