Confirmation Bias

I traveled to Hilton Head a few weeks ago to attend a company function and spend a few days relaxing with Wanda. I still try to keep up with industry information when I’m away. I was reading a book review by a Chicago area market analyst. He was reviewing a book (Enlightenment Now) that was making the case that the world is getting better and better. In many ways I agree with the premise of the book. However, he made the statement that he was happy that “faith and tradition are being replaced by reason and science.” Since his email address was at the bottom of the article, I wrote to him. I told him that faith wasn’t in conflict with science, it was the reason for it. I made the point that it was the faith community that built the first hospitals and schools in this country, and it is still the faith community that is first to respond in the aftermath of natural disasters by sending thousands in to help clean up the mess and administer to the displaced. While he agreed with my point, he still maintained that before the enlightenment period, the religious hierarchy still competed for power with the governments of the world. To that I said that wasn’t a failing of religion, but a corruption of the mind. He made a few more points, as did I, but in the end he maintained his belief that religion is bad and I maintained my belief that he came to his conclusion 1) with incomplete information, and 2) because that’s what he wants to believe. My point is that we all have our own beliefs. And many times we believe what we do with little thought because that’s just what we want to believe. We hold on to information that re-enforces our beliefs, but we dismiss information that conflicts with it. The condition is called confirmation bias. The writer of that review determined the way he believes about faith by studying religion in the 1400’s. He knew nothing about modern faith the way we practice it today in our more Evangelical Churches. And furthermore, he had no interest in finding out. His mind was already made up. Even though this is a true story, it is also an analogy for our beliefs about investments. If we continue to hold on to beliefs that are old and no longer relevant, we will not have much of a chance at being a successful investor.