Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Confirmation Bias

We hate to be wrong. When our beliefs and ideas and knowledge are challenged, we have a strong tendency to become aggressively defensive, going as far as attacking the other person personally. It is extremely difficult trying to change someone’s opinion, because of this strong bias towards our own thoughts. This is confirmation bias.

The problem with confirmation bias is that it creates a vicious cycle, causing us to become more and more rigid in our thinking. Not only do we refuse to change our position when challenged by someone else, we actively seek out proof that we are right.

When we read or hear news or a fact, our brain has a tendency to automatically colour it according to our own beliefs. If it aligns with our beliefs, then we take it as concrete proof that we are right. If it goes against our views, we work hard to prove that there are flaws in the article, such as claiming that the writer is biased, or blatantly ignoring it, while demanding better evidence.

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt eloquently describes this phenomenon into two questions.
When we like the proposition or fact, we ask: “Can I believe this?”. If there is even a single plausible reason, we give ourselves permission to believe it, as it reinforces our views.
However, when we don’t like it, we ask: “Must I believe this?”. Even a single, minor flaw is enough for us to discredit the new information.

This gross bias results in the difficulty of our brain to consider alternative points of view. Furthermore, we now live in the Information Era where abundant information is freely available, meaning that we can easily search up numerous other opinions that align with ours, even if the majority consensus is against us. We choose only to discuss the idea deeply with people who think like us, while fighting tooth and nail against others.

How do we overcome this incredible barrier? Like most cognitive biases, we cannot simply switch it off.

Perhaps the first step is acknowledging that we are very flawed beings that are prone to being wrong.

Then, we can catch ourselves asking “can I” versus “must I”. If we catch ourselves saying “must I believe it?”, then we should become critical of our own thinking and ask ourselves how we would respond if we instead asked the question “can I believe it?”.

At the same time, try to notice when other people are showing confirmation bias. Then, realise that is exactly how ignorant and obtuse you sound when voicing your own confirmation bias.

Finally, remember that it is okay to be wrong. If we never made any mistakes, then we would never grow. How boring would that world be?

Posted in Psychology & Medicine


Phones, golf clubs, scissors, forks and knives, the order of writing… Almost everything in this world is made for the convenience of right-handed people. Because of this, there is a hypothesis that left-handed people have a relatively shorter life expectancy compared to right-handed people.

Dr. Diane F. Halpern of California State University conducted a research comparing the life expectancy of right-handed people versus left-handed people. The results were astounding; the mean life expectancy of right-handed people was 75, while left-handed people only lived 66 years on average. Dr. Halpern posited that this was due to left-handed people becoming stressed living in a right-handed world, shortening their life expectancy. Of course, there were debates about whether the results were reliable or not and there was heavy opposition from the left-handed community. But if the left-handed people are enraged about being discriminated against by society, this would stress them out and actually shorten their life, so it might not be best not to debate about the issue.

Left-handedness has historically been associated with evil. The word right also means “good”, while left-handedness is formally known as sinistrality, which shares its etymological origin with sinister. The word for right is associated with good things throughout the world, while left is associated with bad things. In Korea, 오른 (oreun, right) has the same pronunciation as 옳은 (orlheun, true)“. The Chinese character for left (左) is also used to mean “improper”. In medieval Europe, left-handed people were thought to be associated with the devil or witches and were often executed. Left-handed people have been unjustly hated throughout time and space.

Posted in History & Literature


There is an extremely simple way to tell if a shirt or jacket is designed for a man or a woman – buttons. A male garment traditionally has buttons on the right side while female garments have them on the left side.

The reason for the male garment is that having the button on the right side is easier to button up when dressing oneself (given that he is right-handed). So why is this not the case for female garments? This is because during Victorian times, women were usually dressed by a maid or servant so it would be easier for them to button up a dress if it was on the left side. This theory is very plausible as zippers were not available then and dresses were mostly buttoned from the back. Even when women’s clothing started having buttons in the front, tailors were already accustomed to the traditional convention.

Alternate theories are quite interesting too. It is hypothesised that buttons on male clothing were modelled after a knight’s armour that would be latched on so that a right-handed opponent could not jam their pike through a seam. Contrary to the military origin of the male buttons, female buttons may be placed in such a way to allow the lady to easily expose her left breast – which is closer to her heart – to nurse her baby.


Posted in History & Literature

Right And Wrong

Hwang Hee was one of the greatest scholars in Chosun (modern day Korea) and served as a minister for 18 years. There is one famous tale that shows his wisdom and character.
One day, two of Hwang Hee’s servants we’re fighting over who was right. They came to Hwang and asked him to judge who was right.
When one child stated his opinion, Hwang said: “You are right”.
Then, the other child retorted in a heated manner and Hwang said again: “You are right”.
His cousin who was observing this asked: “Surely one was wrong for the argument to have started. Why do you say that both are right?”.
Hwang smiled and replied to him: “You are right also”.

There is much to be learnt from Minister Hwang Hee’s broad-mindedness, benevolence and wisdom even now, over 500 years since his time. Arguments are destructive acts with no gain. Instead of debating the right and wrong of every little thing, it is far more effective to seek relative and absolute knowledge.