Bias number 26 is known as the congruence bias. The congruence bias is a subset of the confirmation bias that impacts people’s ability to make decisions based on beliefs.
The congruence bias arises when people rely too much on the direct testing of a received bias while failing to conduct indirect testing of the bias. What does this mean in non-psychology speak?
Imagine you want to initiate an action, let’s say turning on the lights in a room. Someone shows you two switches and tells you that the one on the right, but not the one on the left, will perform the function you desire, in this case, turning on the lights.
Simple enough, right? So you rely on the right-hand switch to turn on the lights, without discovering whether or not the left-hand switch will perform the same function. It is this failure to perform indirect testing, namely challenging the notion that it’s only the right-hand switch that will perform the function you require, that creates the congruence bias.
Why is this important? Well, consider that without challenging the received wisdom of someone else directly, you rely on their instruction that is accurate but that may also be incomplete.
Imagine what would happen if you dared to flip the other switch and it, too, turned on the lights? What if you flipped the switch and found that it increased the illumination of the area by turning on an additional set of lights that are perhaps more discreet but equally beneficial in brightening the room?
If you fail to explore beyond the instruction provided to you, you’ll never find out, right?
The scenario that immediately springs to mind as I write this is one of adults and children trying to work out how to use an electronic device. Some adults tend to read the instruction manual to find out how things work. Many just stick to what they know and never explore the manual to find out what the device can do.
Children, on the other, just press buttons, and often adults wonder how in the world they have managed to find interesting functionality in household machines.
What’s at play here? It strikes me that adults want to get things right, and the way to get things right is to follow instructions. Children, largely unfettered by a concern about the right way to do something, are more inclined to take risks, to explore how things work. In the process, they discover realms of functionality in a basic tool like a television remote control that are beyond the average adult.
Where does this play out in business? Consider that often people play by the rules as agreed by others, whether they are written in a contract or not, and rarely do they consider the alternatives. It takes brain power to do the research required to powerfully challenge some notions and courage to put forth an alternative way of looking at things.
It is pertinent to today’s culture, where our existence is spent in online environments that direct us to see, hear and believe what someone wants us to see, hear and believe. There’s safety in numbers and there’s safety in agreement.
As social creatures, we can be guilty of falling into the animalistic viewpoint that standing out from the crowd puts us at risk of being humiliated, shot down or ostracised. When a person puts forward an alternative view that challenges the received wisdom, we either retreat into silence and pretend we didn’t see it, we enter into the fray, jumping on the bandwagon (another bias) to join the crowd, or we agree with each person with whom we’re speaking, failing to make a stand for our own personal integrity.
As a result, the world is being polarised between those who want to maintain a corrupt, dysfunctional status quo and those who want to liberate humanity from the tyranny of a distorted narrative of democracy. Consider that democracy as an idea has been hijacked. It is being used as a battle cry by those who want you to believe equality of all is the height of political enlightenment.
In truth, democracy has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with victory of those who shout loudest, longest and most viciously, whether the shouters' point of view is just or not. Socrates and Aristotle opposed it. Thomas Jefferson once said, “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”
Do you really want to be ruled by an ill-informed mob?
I, for one, do not. In the past four years, since the arrival of Brexit and events leading up to the US election, my eyes have been opened to the endemically corrupt nature of our current systems of government and the businesses that benefit from it.
The corruption is not limited to the United States or the United Kingdom. Rather, it permeates every single governing body in the world today, all of whom are all fighting for your support. How will you choose who you support?
If you are following the "official" narrative, consider that you are falling into the trap of the congruence bias by believing what you’re being told by those in power. Are you challenging the beliefs being put forward by mainstream sources by really exploring the alternatives? In my experience, if you believe what they're telling you, the answer is a definite no.
By challenge, I don’t mean just dipping your toe in the water or having a surreptitious peek around the corner. I mean wading in until you are swimming in it, drinking it in until you have fully explored the depths of the alternative points of view.
It's only then that you can make a truly informed decision. Without it, you are basing your decisions on a small part of a much bigger and more truthful story.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and explore the “dark side”, whichever that side is for you. It is an exhausting pursuit but it is well worth it.
You’ll come out of it tired and hungry, just like someone who dares to swim across the English Channel, but you will be fuller, fitter and more whole in your decision-making than you were when you went in.
Bring those places of darkness for you into the light. It will bring out an even brighter spark of brilliance in you.