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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Constans

What is Interpretive Bias?

Humans are designed to make interpretations about the world around and to speculate on ambiguous events. Therefore, we make predictions of the future (determine likelihood of events), we formulate attributions about the cause or reason for events or people's behavior (attribution), and we determine meaning of past events. In all of these judgments, we don't know with certainty the actual or future state of affairs. Because there is no way to the the truth, biases can influence our judgment. Biases can be due to current mood, certain cognitive styles (I.e., pessimistic), the ease of accessing images of the negative event, and practicing reasons why the negative event might be true. Remember, none of the causes of bias make the event more likely- they just make it seem more likely.

The only exercise from this text is to recognize that these factors can cause INTERPRETIVE BIAS. So, ask oneself whether my negative belief might be due to current mood (sad, nervous, doubt ridden), imaginability (just because you can visualize doesn't change actual probability - it just makes it FEEL more likely. It doesn't make it more likely), just because I feel like thinking the negative will make me safer (cognitive style) doesn't make it any more likely to be true. This is often a frequent inaccurate thought with anxious and dressed folks- that thinking the negative thought actually helps prepare you in case the bad thing happens. This proves NOT to be the case and will expand on that in later texts. And finally, as we have discussed, if I've been thinking about reasons the negative event might be true, then those reasons are going to be more accessible making it feel more true or more likely.  Of course the strategy for this is counter factual thinking. I will go over ways to combat these biases in future, but for know ask yourself "Is this just my mood talking?" "Does this feel more likely because I've been generating images of it?" "Does this feel more likely because I've been listing reasons to support it? "Am I thinking this way, because somehow I think it's making me safer?"

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