Divination, Cognitive Biases, and the U.S. Election

At the “Wild Hunt” blog (Looking Beyond the Presidential Election: Diviners agree on outcome), several diviners in October (2016) predicted that Hilary Clinton would be the next President of the United States. However, they were all wrong – Donald Trump won. Why were all these diviners wrong? And what can a diviner learn from this to improve their own readings?

As humans, we believe that when we interpret a divination, we base it on our experience and objectivity. However, our brain often plays tricks on us. Cognitive biases seep into our unconsciousness unawares.

The first bias that became evident to me about the errors committed by the diviners who predicted Clinton’s victory was the Confirmation Bias. This is defined as a “type of cognitive bias that involves favoring information that confirms with previously existing beliefs and bias.” Seeking only positive information about a candidate that we like and negative information about one whom we do not is an example of Confirmation Bias.  My observations about the readings stem from the hope that many Pagans had for a Clinton win. Also, the promotion in the media of an inevitable Clinton victory seeped into everyone’s unconscious.

Besides Confirmation Bias, other ones that plague diviners are the Availability Heuristic, the Attentional Bias, and the Optimism Bias. The Availability Heuristic is defined as “the tendency to estimate the probability of something happening based on how many examples come to mind.” This is the usual way that people determine risk. However, if a person watches too many news or crime shows, they will come to regard the world to be more dangerous than it actually is. If the “Wild Hunt” diviners knew mostly Clinton supporters, they would overestimate her appeal to the voters.

The Attentional Bias is “the tendency to pay attention to some things, while simultaneously ignoring others.” When making important decisions, people usually do not consider all of the possibilities. In fact, a hyper-focus (“tunnel vision”) will often occur. Being emotionally neutral when making important decisions is difficult. Perhaps the diviners gave attention to a Clinton victory because it was emotionally satisfying to do so.

The Optimism Bias (the “illusion of invulnerability”) is the belief that the chances of a bad event happening to a person is less than to their friends. Most people expect only good things to happen to them. The Optimism Bias creates a sense of well-being about the future. However, it can also be a form of magical thinking. If the diviners viewed the Clinton victory as favorable, they would have underestimated the risks of her loss.

Our brains can unknowingly deceive us into thinking that we are being objective. As diviners, we need to be aware of these and other biases that lurk in our unconsciousness. Once we are familiar with them, we can begin to compensate for them in our readings.

A website for more information about biases: What is a Confirmation Bias? at Cognitive Psychology.

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One thought on “Divination, Cognitive Biases, and the U.S. Election

  1. Pingback: My Prediction of the U.S. Election and My Doubts | Neptune's Dolphins

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