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  • Katrina Dennehy

Confirmation Bias & Self-Esteem

by Noel Dillon-Daly

Confirmation Bias is the tendency to pay attention to information that supports a belief, and to ignore information to the contrary. In the context of Mental Health, confirmation bias plays a large role in solidifying low self-esteem.


People grappling with low self-esteem are prone to focusing on feedback or experiences that validate their negative self-perceptions. Positive feedback or achievements are dismissed as exceptions, brushed aside as irrelevant, or ignored altogether. This skewed processing perpetuates a cycle of self-doubt, further entrenching the individual in their biased belief.


For example, if John believes that he is inadequate he will look for information that supports this belief. In other words, John has a habit of seeing the world through the lens of his low self-esteem: if his friend forgets to respond to a text message, then John may take this as 'proof' that he is inadequate instead of seeing it as something inconsequential. John might also ignore all the evidence that shows how highly-regarded he is.


The insidious nature of confirmation bias is that it not only distorts current perceptions but also has a retrospective effect. Past experiences are filtered through the lens of existing beliefs, reinforcing the negativity. For example, a person battling low self-esteem might recall a past achievement but interpret it as a stroke of luck rather than acknowledging their competence.


It can be difficult for us to identify the biases that we carry around because they can feel very much a part of us. Through Psychotherapy, a person's biases can be brought into the light. A therapist will notice when a client has a belief that is distorted. They will notice the areas in which a client has become susceptible to confirmation bias and help them see things more objectively.


The process of overcoming confirmation bias is not a linear one. It requires patience, self-reflection, and the gentle guidance of therapy. Yet, with each session, the skewed perceptions begin to untangle, offering glimpses of a more balanced and realistic self-image.

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