The Curious Coach Podcast

Episode 117:
Mini: Curiosity & Confirmation Bias

When you’re being curious, are you really being curious and open to unlearning, or are you confirming what you already know through your confirmation bias?

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Hi there and welcome to the latest episode of The Curious Coach Podcast.  This week I was reflecting on curiosity!  And I know, as the curious coach, you’d expect nothing less.  In part it was driven by me starting to read a great book by Adam Grant called Think Again. 

In particular, what got me reflecting was how we can suffer from confirmation bias.  Of course, bias is something that is usually unconscious, and when we think about how it applies to curiosity, it can flow from us looking for information to confirm or reconfirm what we already believe to be true.  And in many situations, we may not even look for the data, we may simply assume it to be true.

So what do I mean by this?  It means, we might think we’re being curious, when in fact, we’re not.  If we’re curious, we’re open minded to explore, to learn, to see what emerges and so on.  Whereas, if we’re unaware of our confirmation bias, then we’re simply looking for data that will reinforce what we already believe to be true.

And it’s quite funny how we can hear something, even in passing, and we simply adopt it as being true.  For example, Adam Grant refers to the story about how a frog won’t jump out of a pot of water that’s slowly brought to the boil.  We’ve probably all heard the story, and it’s often repeated in many situations to illustrate a point.  The only problem is that the story is myth – it’s simply not true.  The frog will in fact jump out of the water when it gets too hot to be comfortable.  Frogs aren’t stupid.  Although I wonder what that might say about us humans!

Anyway – that brings me back to my challenge for you for this week.  There are many things that we’ve heard over the years that we still assume today as being true.  And my challenge for you is to be genuinely curious about what some of those things might be.   See if you can be an intrepid anthropologist and uncover some of these misinformed facts and beliefs.  Can you be openly curious to notice them as they come up over the course of the coming week?  Whether you still believe Pluto to be a planet, or that Cleopatra was Egyptian, or that the tooth fairy exits, there are lots of things that we simply assume to be true based on what we think we know but are in fact wrong.   And when you start to explore your beliefs and assumptions, then this gets even more interesting. 

So that’s the challenge, when you notice yourself making an assumption or recalling some piece of data or knowledge to make your case in an argument or a piece of work, take a moment to examine the data and see if it is genuinely true.  Don’t try to prove that it’s true, but be open to what else might be true and what knew knowledge you might learn along the way.

Anyway, that’s it for this week, have fun being genuinely curious, and if you learn something really new and interesting as a result, please drop me an email to [email protected] or leave me a comment on LinkedIn.  Thanks for listening, and until next time – stay curious