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How Our Brains Trick Us into Believing the Wrong Things

How Our Brains Trick Us into Believing the Wrong Things

Watching the past presidential elections, we can easily find protests and demonstrations where huge crowds of supporters argued with their opposing sides, blaming each other for the perceived mess they brought to the country.

Supporters of one side see only the good policies while turning a blind eye to others, and that’s how the confrontation begins.

Have you ever wondered why such a large discrepancy can be caused between the two? Instead of mere difference in political views, it was actually confirmation bias that came into play.

Reason for discrepancy: Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is a psychological phenomenon where people tend to seek information to reinforce their own beliefs. It is also known as myside bias, which literally means the strong belief in the ideas of one’s own group when we are in a large collaborative group.

How is confirmation bias lethal to us? It blinds us from being objective to facts. Facts that oppose our beliefs. Facts that can prove us wrong. Consequently, we become irrational and render ourselves incapable of proper reasoning without realizing it.

Confirmation bias comes in three dimensions: Biased search for information, biased interpretation and biased memory. They all contribute to our misjudgment in different ways.

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1. Biased Search for Information – Only Test in a One-sided Way

It refers to the tendency for people to test their hypotheses in a one-sided way. In simpler and more direct words, we only look for evidence consistent with our own hypotheses. This phenomenon has been confirmed by numerous experiments.

For example, in a study, participants were asked to rate another person on the introversion-extroversion scale from the performance of an interview they conducted with him/her. They were also provided with a list of interview questions to choose from. [1]

Interestingly, when the interviewee was introduced as an introvert/extrovert, the interviewer would pick questions that presumed the personality. When introduced as an introvert, questions like “What do you find unpleasant about noisy parties?” were likely to be asked, which gave the interviewee little room to justify himself/herself.

The selection of questions served to reinforce the belief of the interviewee as an introvert/extrovert. And all these were done subconsciously.

2. Biased Interpretation – Interpret in a Way that Supports our Beliefs

We are also found lopsided to interpret a piece of information in a way that favors our beliefs. Even when we are given the same piece of evidence, people having opposing stances can view the evidence entirely differently. [2]

During the presidential election in 2004, a study was conducted to people with strong feelings towards the two parties. They were given contradictory statements written by a Republican, a Democratic and a politically neutral figure. They were also convinced that the contradiction was reasonable. In the end, the result showed that participants were much more likely to rate the political figure of the opposing party contradictory, even with the same evidence.

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3. Biased Memory – Remember Memory Selectively to Support Beliefs

Also known as “selective recall”, where people remember a piece of information selectively to reinforce their beliefs. There are two sayings in this bias, one suggesting memory consistent with prior expectations is stored more easily, while another one suggesting surprising information is more memorable. Both views are confirmed in studies. One thing to be sure is that we all have selective memory.

In one study, participants were asked to recall the traits of a person in a job application scenario. When told the applicant was looking for a librarian job, participants recalled more traits related to introversion. On the other hand, participants recalled more extroverted traits when they were told it was a real estate salesperson application. [3]

Confirmation Bias Makes us Believe our Faulty Beliefs Even More

Up to this point, we are aware of the fact that our minds are biased. But what does it do to us?

    On the scientific grounds we often look for a cause-and-effect relationship. If confirmation bias is in play, we are likely to fall into traps that affirm faulty hypotheses.

    Researchers are sometimes guilty of confirmation bias by setting up experiments or framing their data in ways that will tend to confirm their hypotheses. It is common to see that one incident follows another, but does that mean there is a causal relationship?  Not necessarily, but when researchers seek to identify the relationship, they are likely to falsely recognize it as such.

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    When it comes to business decision making, it is also very dangerous to not be objective. People usually overlook the importance of information that may have substantially influenced the decision to be made when the piece of information is against their expected results.

    For example, when an executive team is devising a new strategy, they are likely to magnify even the tiniest clue of success. The downside and contrary results are put aside and disregarded, or they are dismissed as exceptional or special cases which require little attention. Such flaws and selective blindness in decision-making can severely harm a business.

    Or even back to simple daily life examples, like when we’re aiming to lose some weight.  You pick a diet and follow it, and your weight changes. If it reduced as expected, you might conclude that it is completely due to the diet’s effectiveness.  However, if later your weight rebounds, confirmation bias may wrongly lead you to ignore it as a random fluctuation and believe that the diet is still working perfectly.  In this case, confirmation bias might cause you to overlook some important hints about your own body.

    To Defeat Confirmation Bias, Try These Practices

    Now that we know that everyone has confirmation bias, how can we fight against it?

    Prove Ourselves Wrong Instead

    No theory or model is every absolutely perfect, and we can only make it better by finding out where it is wrong.  So when you write down your hypotheses, instead of seeking evidence only in favor of our view, try to actively look for the opposite.  Have the courage to find as much opposing evidence as you can, and it can give you big hints about where the flaws in our current ideas are.

    Nurture Constructive but Independent Thinking in a Group

    In group decision-making, create opportunities for each member to formulate their own ideas independently, and a safe environment to express them constructively.  Strive to clear away group-think assumptions that encourage everyone to jump on the same bandwagon.  Welcome people who have opposing ideas!  Instead of dismissing or confronting them, why not leverage each person’s unique point of view to illuminate our blind spots?  Having more perspectives can help the entire group create a clearer picture when making decisions.

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    This is actually what Abraham Lincoln did by inviting rival politicians and welcoming debate and discussion in spite of their completely contradicting opinions.  The same method is also used in police investigations.  Witnesses are generally not allowed to discuss with one another to prevent unintended (or intended) influence to maintain an unbiased testimony.

    Expect the Unexpected Results

    If we encounter unexpected situations or surprising results, never treat them as just a “special” or “exceptional” case and disregard them.  They are not!

    Try to explain the occurrence of the incidents by providing 3 possible reasons.  Research has suggested 3 is the ideal number, as having more does not significantly help to analyze the problem. [4]

    Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

    Reference

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    Jeffrey Lau

    Editor. Sport Lover. Animal Lover.

    A Dull Resume Can Kill Your Job Chances, Here’s How You Can Write an Appealing One The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach 20 Most Fun Jobs in the World (That Also Pay Well) How to Think Positive Every Day How Our Brains Trick Us into Believing the Wrong Things

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    Last Updated on September 29, 2020

    How to Start an Online Business That Will Grow and Succeed

    How to Start an Online Business That Will Grow and Succeed

    Unsurprisingly enough, all businesses are online today. Considering the advances in the smartphone industry as well as the increasingly accessible internet facility, it was only a matter of time before businesses took advantage of the online environment.

    This increasing popularity makes for a promising future for a lot of young entrepreneurs. And knowing how to start an online business will open up a world of possibilities for you that was not possible 10 years ago.

    So, keeping the potential for exponential growth in mind, let’s dive into the article below, and explore the steps of starting an online business that will bring you success.

    1. Becoming the Master of ‘ONE’ Trade

    Most successful online businesses are the master of one trade. And that’s why beginning with a niche is always a good idea.

    A niche market is a focused segment within a larger market. Imagine a men’s shoes market and then, imagine handcrafted brown Italian leather shoes for men. While the previous one is a bigger market, the latter one is simply a more focused segment within that market.

    Knowing the niche helps a lot to start an online business and if you are feeling a bit lost, here are some self-queries that will act as a perfect guide:

    What Speaks to Your Heart?

    This first way of discovering the niche is perfect for those who want to do what they love. Working in a market that you love will ensure that constant excitement and drive to do better, eventually leading to ultimate prosperity.

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    Decisions Based on Knowledge

    The second way is perfect for those who have a lot of untapped knowledge about a specific industry. Utilizing the insights on a specific industry is a great way to find a niche. This way, you’ll already know all the ins and outs of the industry and can easily get ahead of all the competitors.

    Undiscovered Potential

    Lastly, conducting research into various industries and finding an untapped segment is another amazing way of finding the right niche. This practice will require you to come up with a new and unique solution for uncatered audiences.

    2. When Is Your Idea Valid?

    All the great ideas for starting an online business needs to be valid. And once you have found the niche, this validation process is what comes next.

    Proving the soundness of the idea is not at all hard. A detailed industry examination is all you need initially to understand the value of the concept and recalibrate it to turn into a great online business.

    Market research is a systematic unraveling of the target market. This research will include all the information on the product/service you are about to sell, the target audience, and how the competitors are operating in this crowded market.

    This in-depth research will give you the initial idea of how the products can make an impact in the outside world. And once the small online business ideas are validated, it will be time to move on and craft a plan and start working on establishing the business.

    3. Crafting the Map to Success

    Having a proper plan for an online business is like having a map when you travel to an unknown city. This is a document that includes all the factual information on the business and crucial business data.

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    To help you out, here’s a list of all the information online business plans must include:

    • An idea of objective – The best online business plans always have a clear outline of the business goals and intentions. Having this clear outline will increase the efficiency of business functions later on. The target demographic, business model—all kinds of information needs to be a part of this document.
    • Taking stock of available resources – A startup needs to utilize all the resources it has, and that’s why the plan needs to have an in-depth outline of the financial resources in use as well as the employees and their expertise. With a better idea of all the resources in hand, starting an online business will be an easier process.

    4. The Virtual Storefront: A Process of Development

    The steps of how to start an online business are incomplete without the website creation process. With the right website approach, you can easily succeed in increasing business revenue.

    What does that perfect business website look like? Let’s follow these steps to create an effective business website.

    Choose Your Approach

    There are numerous ways of making a website and for a positive outcome, you need to choose the perfect approach. Depending on the business model, initial finances, and end goals, there are two kinds of approaches for the online storefront:

    • Third-party approach – Third-party platforms will connect you with the customers out there. For small online business ideas, Creating an account or site with these platforms will be beneficial because these platforms come with a large array of services as well as a big enough existing consumer base ready to utilize.
    • Creating a new website –  A business-specific website will help you eliminate the third party go-between and connect directly with the buyers. With this approach, you get more control over the business and how it is presented to the consumers out there and the revenue you make. Any of the above-mentioned approaches can be beneficial for easy online business startups. However, to achieve some specific business goals, having a customized website will be more beneficial for you.

    Design Can Bring You Maximum Success!

    For those who have decided to create their own site, the design is of paramount importance. With a great design, you will be able to engage and interact with the visitors better and encourage them to make a purchase.

    The design, however, is not just a matter of aesthetics. A website’s design encompasses all aspects of it, from the visual effects to the content that’s used on the site.

    To create a truly amazing design that reflects new online business concepts here are a few matters to consider:

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    • Keep it responsive – Many markets are simply skipping over the desktop phase and launching the business for mobile users around the world.[1] Considering this popularity of the mobile internet market, the business website has to be responsive. This approach will help you to reach a bigger audience and conduct business on a larger scale.
    • Users want a fast experience – Using high-quality images on the site does improve the visuals, but make sure all those images are compressed. Having a faster website will enhance the user experience on the site. Besides compressing all the media content on the site, you can also utilize an asynchronous loading technique that loads all the contents simultaneously, reducing friction. With a faster site, it will become easier to implement the online business startup ideas into reality.
    • Define the brand – The design stage determines a lot of things for the business website and one of those things is the business image. To make an impact on the world with the business, you have to create a perfect image and for that, a brand guide is necessary. The brand guide is a document that includes all the information and guidelines on various visual elements on the site that makes up the business personality. Based on the kind of image you want to create, all the elements will be outlined in this documentation.

    Where the Website Becomes Reality

    Since we know how website design helps to launch a successful online business, it is time to move onto development. Online business development is where the idea becomes a reality. And to make this reality perfect, you need to make sure that the development and deployment process goes well.

    A high performing site always includes all the right features that enhance the user experience as well as helps you to convert more traffic. And for the best results, ensure the use of only the latest tech stack during development.

    Here are some development issues you have to pay attention to while building the business website:

    • The right partner makes all the difference – For small startups who are wondering how to start an online business, finding the right development partner is going to make all the difference. However, before making a decision, there are a few things you should contemplate. The team that you are about to hire should have experience in catering to your industry, as well as an extensive portfolio and good reviews. Additionally, it will be perfect if the agency or freelancer also provides a 360-degree service, from development to maintenance.
    • How to assure the quality of the site? – Testing the site is an integral part of the answer to the question of “how to start an online business?”. An experienced partner will be able to help you the most with this. From security testing to split testing, this stage in development will help in understanding how well the site functions and what needs to change. And once the changes are made and the test results come clean, it will be time to launch the website.

    5. Some Tricks to Increase Online Sales

    Selling online is not easy, but not hard either. In a physical store, you can use campaigns, go door to door with pamphlets, and such. However, successful online businesses have their own style of campaigns that helps them to sell more without any problems.

    So, what are these tricks?

    Utilize the Magic of SEO

    With an increase in quality traffic, the sales ratio will go up too. And to drive quality traffic on the website, you need to utilize the SEO tricks, and probably hire an SEO expert.

    When starting an online business site, ensure all the content on the site is optimized to rank for the right queries by target consumers. With a higher rank on the SERP, the traffic will increase on the site.

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    With the increase in quality traffic, it will become easier for you to convert visitors. The visitor data will help you to adjust the site performance. In brief, utilizing SEO will open the doors to a lot of possibilities for your small online business ideas.[2]

    Entice With Free Value

    Consumers today have lots of options to choose from. And keeping all that in mind, it will be wise to create a business plan for an online startup that provides free value to the users before asking them to buy something.

    Consumers want to buy from someone who knows what they are doing, especially in the case of a curated service or goods provider. And that’s why to turn the profitable online business ideas even more effective, you need to start offering free value on the site, with free products and content.

    Having a blog is also another way of displaying your expertise. With specialized content on the industry, you can easily grab the attention of the audience. And once assured of your knowledge on the matter, consumers will feel a lot safer about making a purchase.

    A Killer Customer Service Is Everything

    Your small online business idea needs a better service option. Using AI-based interactive features to implement better support for the global consumer base will prove to be extremely beneficial. With a 24/7 automated support channel, customers will be satisfied with your business and come back more often.

    It’s an Easy Process: All You Have to Do Is to Start

    And there it is, the simple five-step process of starting an online business that is bound to succeed. If you look closely, you’ll notice that there are not a lot of differences between creating a physical business and an online one. The main differences are only in the consumer and competitive landscape.

    While a physical store faces and caters to local competitors and consumers, the online business has to deal with the same on a global basis. So, focusing well on the global market landscape while crafting the plan will help you succeed.

    More Tips on How to Start an Online Business

    Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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