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Congruence Bias

Congruence Bias

Dr Jeff Stoker

It’s all too common to see people absolutely worn down by their own stubbornness with a pig-headed tendency to carry on doing the same old thing, again and again, thinking wrongly that if they do it for long enough they’re going to get a different result, this stubborn cognitive trait is an example of something called Congruence Bias.

Although I also see people who use their stubbornness to their own advantage refusing to give in to whatever they are facing, more often than not I see stubbornness as a negative trait instead.

Stubbornness needs to be directed in the right way towards the right things in life.

To just be stubborn for the sake of it, makes you inflexible, it can reduce the choices you can see and it can lead to poor life decisions. To be an effective trait stubbornness needs to be directed in a positive way otherwise it will work against you.

This all sounds like common sense you might be saying but we so often get it wrong and the reason we get is wrong is most often down to Congruence Bias.

Congruence Bias is simply the inability to consider an alternative hypotheses, and this commonly means that you are probably doing the same things again and again with your eyes shut to alternatives and expecting a different result.

It could be you don’t know what you are doing is wrong, or maybe you just aren’t ready yet to accept there may be another easier way.

The solution is to start to notice all of the times in your life where patterns keep repeating themselves, and where what you keep doing doesn’t give you the results you want, and when the same things keep going wrong. Because these are the times when you need to start thinking and doing things a bit differently.

If you’re stubbornly repeating the same behaviour, again and again, your thinking is probably being affected by congruence bias.

Let’s look at the wisdom of Albert Einstein’s who with a frustration with the rigid thinking of the other scientists around him at a time came up with his own definition of insanity which he described as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. This example is not just his definition of insanity it is also a good example of congruence bias, this inability to accept a different explanation or hypothesis shows stubborn rigid thinking and in life, this can lead to disaster and despair by continued repetition of the same mistakes again and again.

Stubbornness poorly applied will just wear you down.

Think about the last time when you travelled along a familiar road, maybe it’s the road to work or maybe it’s just another road you travel along often, the thing is every time you take this path you end up at the same destination. It seems obvious that every time you take that road you will end up at the same destination, so the next obvious question is what do you need to do to get to go somewhere else?

The answer is that to go to a different place we need to take a different path, a different road or take a different route entirely and sometimes the same thing is true in life.

What’s really worryingly to me is that if we take a familiar journey often enough you can even arrive at the destination without fully remembering how we even got there. Often we go through life on autopilot too, stubbornly doing the same things again and again, making the same mistakes old mistakes again and again too, often without even realising we are doing it.

So the next time you feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall maybe it’s time to stop and do something else instead.

I see too many people worn down, strong people applying their efforts year after year in the wrong ways, stubbornly doing the wrong things, stubbornly hanging on to the wrong beliefs and stubbornly thinking that if they keep going something’s going to change. If only they’d have applied their effort elsewhere instead their life may have told a far different story instead.

Congruence Bias stops you from changing, it stops you from doing what you need to do, it cuts down your options, and without a change of mindset even the strongest of us can still end up stubbornly grinding ourselves down into the ground.

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About the author

Dr Jeff Stoker

Clinician, writer, educator, speaker, and problem expert. Helping people to think better, to solve problems, and get their lives unstuck.

Winner of the Coaching and NLP in Healthcare Award at the 2018 ANLP International Conference.

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