Improspectives

Improv skills lead to success

Confirmation Bias Proves What You Already Knew

leave a comment »

Human beings deal with complexities by creating mental models. Our models are necessarily simpler than reality and are based on our experiences. These considerations imply two things. First, models are intensely personal constructs. Second, personal models are difficult to change. When we find something that works, we’re reluctant to change it.

There’s a strong temptation to fit what we see into our models rather than invest the effort (and ego) into admitting our model is wrong, or at least incomplete. Oswald and Grosjean define confirmation bias as “the tendency to search for, interpret and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.” You probably know someone who engages in impressive mental gymnastics to fit everything into their world view.

In business, falling prey to confirmation bias can cost you money. If you developed a process that worked for years but doesn’t meet your company’s needs, you must be open to change. If you interpret critiques as personal attacks, you’re much less likely to improve your processes.

You can take advantage of confirmation bias to create interesting characters or “find the game” within an improv scene. Improv scenes run on justifying why something someone else said or did is true and important. If your character’s perspective uses “Yes, and…” to bring everything into his or her world view, you can be an interesting character and entertain your audience. Like in business, you have to be careful not to let your internal game hurt your team’s performance, but it’s a fun approach to take on occasion.

The exercise “Your Place or Mine?” provides an interesting context for justification and fitting incidents into your character’s world view. In this exercise, you and a scene partner play characters in two different locations. For example, one of you might be a fast food worker in McDonald’s and the other an archery instructor on the range. If the fast food worker hands the archer a french fry, the archer could interpret it as a small arrow and shoot it into a target, which the fast food worker could interpret as throwing the food into a customer’s mouth.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: