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I have noticed something about myself in the last year or so, I fear being proven wrong. When I see some study on a topic about which I have a prior opinion, I get a light dose of fear. To give a more specific example, after I finish writing a post for this blog, I consider reading it over in order to revise it. My immediate reaction to that suggestion is to fear that my belief that I have written an eloquent post is wrong. Ironically actually discovering errors does not cause me much pain.

This seems like a clear case of confirmation bias, and being biased is bad. Bias leads to costly mistakes, like writing bad posts and making unwise investments. Luckily, I have come to recognize this feeling of fear relatively easily, and recognizing it helps me to identify when I might be prone to confirmation bias and to lookout for possible disconfirming evidence. This feeling of fear is my own special marker for confirmation bias.

When I recognize the feeling, I know that I should think carefully about my choices about what evidence to seek. I make sure not to avoid looking at evidence simply because it might force me to change my beliefs, and I often try to actively seek possible disconfirming evidence.

I am sure I don’t always notice my fear, and overcoming even light fear can be difficult, but I am glad that confirmation bias has a relatively clear marker. I don’t know if other people get this same fear emotion, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is a general phenomena.