Saturday, March 7, 2015

Overcoming my gay Mormon confirmation bias.

Don't read the first sentence and decide this article is not for you. Read at least three paragraphs down, please.

"Everything I see shows me that the LDS church is true. So how on earth can anyone else feel differently?" said the guy with no clue.

I have been "that guy" for quite some time. Some would say close minded. I say, I'm a gay married Mormon man. I am not closed minded. But I do select what I read and I check the sources. If it is a source I trust then I explore. If it turns out to be a site that isn't trustworthy, then I move on fast.

Information that supports my stances seems to leap out at me, and its not just a me thing. It's called confirmation bias, and by definition, it is "the tendency to search for, interpret, or recall information in a way that confirms one's beliefs or hypotheses".

When I go to the temple, or see something on the news the information I gather confirms my stance. I may somehow be selecting only the information that I want to ingest.

I may also interpret information in a way that supports my current belief system. So, I ask myself, if I start off as a child riding with my family to church and I believe that it is true, will everything I assimilate will support my stance? Where does change come in? Am I locked into a belief?

Of course the answer is no. Choice and agency is everything.

How to overcome confirmation bias

I am a Mormon, I am Married, and I am sexually attracted to men. I have made decisions in my life based on what I think I know. I choose to marry a woman ( a wonderful women, by the way) because I believed that it was the right thing to do based on what I knew of the LDS church. I chose to go on a mission based on the same.

I listen to conference and certain things jump out at me. I read the scriptures and some passages mean more to me than others. When I read the paper, if there is Mormon, LDS or gay in the headline, I am all over it.

I am a big boy, however. Because I realize that confirmation bias exisits, I run info through my own personal mill before I interpret it.

  • I establish the source and its reliability. Easy example: if it comes from the National Enquirer it should probably be discounted. 
  • I consider what options might be, what logic would dictate. I look at things positively. I am optimistic. For example: The world is seven thousand years old -vs- everything I read in national geographic and science today. I acknowledge that the 7,000 years may mean something else, and that there could be a lot of truth to the science I am reading at the same time. Of course Man doesn't know everything and we don't have access to Gods knowledge, so there are going to be things we don't have answers for. I can wait. 
  • I try to look at, or at least be aware of the negative as well. I try to understand what the neigh-sayers are saying. Is there truth to some of what they say? There usually is. I try to spot the truth and the false and categorize them mentally. I am not shocked when there is truth that I didn't know about. 
  • I try to use my gut. The gut is something most people don't consciously acknowledge when studying an issue. I acknowledge the emotion. I embrace the spirit and count on him to guide me to correct information, or to discern when I am hearing what is true -vs-false, or strictly what I want to hear. My personality and my creativity come into play here. I am not stuck on a drawing board. 

Sample thought:  Anyone involved with University of Utah football is going to hell.
  • Was it published in the "BYU is Great" blog?
  • Was it written by BYU's athletic director?
  • What is the purpose of the article?
  • Did I read it to begin with because I hate Utah football?
  • Does the mug shot in the article look anything like Kyle Whiningham?
  • Will the blog look good when I print it out and put it on my fridge?
I think that, because I am aware of confirmation bias, I may be able to avoid it when it gets in the the way of learning or recognizing truth. When I consider these, any learning I do or any  knowledge I receive seems more pure, more real... more resilient.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    Thank you for blogging. I'm in trouble. I'm a lesbian dating and heading to marriage with a returned missionary son of stake president. I can't stand his touch or hugs or kisses. He thinks is a virtue thing I guess, and although I never did nothing wrong, that's not the main reason. I'm pretty sure this process will kill me with sadness. Is this really what heavenly Father had to me for this life?