D'Oh! Disconfirmation Bias Bites Me in the Derrière

Okay, I admit it; I hate it when it happens, but I also find it funny when it does: even when we know about the cognitive biases and heuristics we are prone to, we fall to them just as easily, and it's only in retrospect that we can see how it happened.

I don't know when exactly it happened, but I figure it must have been some time last week when I was looking to this week's schedule. Right, so Veteran's Day. Okay. Rick's off. The bright boy's off; even his transportation is closed for the day. My mom's off. Dad and I are not off. That should have been one tip; my class on Thursdays are dual credit students from two of the local high schools (different district than the girls') and they aren't off. So it really should have not registered for me that the girls would have no school, but for whatever reason, I decided that the girls were off, too. In fact, I think I decided they were off first, because I remember that I was concerned because I wasn't and that meant Rick needed to be. Sigh.

Once I decided they were out of school on the 11th, it was a done deal. Disconfirmation biases prevented me from registering, paying attention to, and focusing on all the indicators that the girls were not going to be out of school.

No notes home saying don't forget the 11th is a holiday? No problem, didn't pay any attention to the fact that they usually come home with a half dozen reminders when there is a holiday and this time there were none.

Weekly newsletter home at the beginning of the week discussing all the work being covered and homework including Thursday? Read, understood, and yet not connected with the contrary belief that they weren't going to school, so why would there be work and homework?

Now I could give myself a pass: I was up Sunday night most of the night ill, then most of Monday was spent in bed, on the couch, in the bathroom, with classes canceled, between a stomach bug/migraine from hell. Wednesdays are long days; nine hours of teaching. And every spare minute that day was spent in databases and on government websites and in my documents folders looking for all the information I used writing the posts that went up that day. I didn't even think about it, think about checking the school website.

I didn't think. Once the decision was made in my mind the week before, I ignored all contrary information. I didn't check the website.

I didn't check bookbags Wednesday night since I don't get home until after the girls have gone to bed usually, so Rick does that. My last real chance to have it click was missed.

I wasn't in the living room at the bus pick up time Thursday morning where I would have heard the bus drive by, or it would have clicked then. Maybe.

Nope, I didn't figure it out until 10:30 when Rosie's school called to see if she was sick. I still didn't get it. My first thought was why were they at school on a holiday?

I know about disconfirmation bias. I teach it. I work hard to avoid it. And it still bit me in the ass Thursday morning and the week prior as I ignored all contrary evidence.

What are you missing? What are you not seeing? Is it little stuff that in the end, like the girls getting a day off, makes no real impact, no long term consequence? Or are you missing big stuff, life-altering stuff because you've already decided you know what the answer is?

You know what you know, and once you do, you will ignore all disconfirming evidence. If it's life-changing, life-threatening stuff, the consequences are potentially catastrophic.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's so true. That's why I force myself to pay attention to what people are saying who disagree with me. I try to remember there is something I could be missing. I try to have an open mind.

Then, I still end up thinking I'm right and it's all just BS. LOL

We're all just human!