What is Congruence Bias?

Every day, we live our lives with hundreds of set ideas and beliefs. They form the way that we see the world, make decisions and act in response to situations that arise.

These ideas may have been set twenty years ago, or five minutes ago. But, they share a common aspect: Once formed, we rarely try to disprove them.

What is Congruence Bias?

Congruence Bias is a form of confirmation bias in which people carry out tests to support their initial hypotheses, rather than considering alternative possibilities. It is the act of conducting experiments to prove yourself right, instead of proving yourself wrong.

Examples of Congruence Bias

Imagine you run a website. Your conversion rate is okay, but you think it could be better. So, you decide to redesign your landing page by changing up the color scheme — you once heard that brighter colors are more attention-grabbing.

A week later, you notice that your conversation rate increased by 10%. You may be happy with this, and conclude that your initial hypothesis (changing the color scheme) was, in fact, correct. But, what you don’t realize is that if you had kept the same colors, and instead altered the layout of the page, you could have seen a 20% traffic increase.

Consider a scenario in which you are experiencing a lot of GI issues from your current diet. You express this feeling to a friend who mentions that transitioning to a low carbohydrate diet fixed their similar feeling. You decide to give it a shot and immediately see an improvement in how you feel.

The issue is, carbohydrates were never the problem. It was gluten. Thus, had you instead tested removing gluten from your diet, you could still enjoy carbs, and experience the same benefits.

How to Avoid Congruence Bias

A/B Testing is the method of testing two alternative hypotheses and comparing the results. For example, A/B testing could have solved the issue with the landing page example listed above. You could have tested both ideas, and it would become clear that the layout change is more effective. This would remove any congruence bias taking place.

Sometimes, hypotheses seem so obvious that an alternate option seems unfathomable. It is at this point where congruence bias runs the most rampant. To combat this, one of the best methods is to ask yourself, “What if I did the opposite?”

This immediately introduces an idea that you likely hadn’t before considered exploring. Most of the time, this test will prove your initial hypothesis to be correct, however, sometimes, it will do the opposite.

For example, I used to write in hour-long blocks of time. I would take my time agonizing over every word and sentence, editing as I went. But, one day I decided to try the opposite. I tried writing in a ten-minute burst with no editing allowed. I found that I produced much more work, which was also higher quality than usual.

Other examples include: exercising in the morning if you usually wait until later in the day, not checking your email for 24 hours, working outside, or only reading fiction books for a week.

(h/t to Tim Ferriss)

ABT — Always Be Testing

In summary, you can avoid congruence bias by ensuring that you are testing your assumptions. Especially when they make the most sense.

Try switching things up for a day, or even for one hour, and see what happens. Worst case scenario, you have more evidence that you were right all along.

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Originally published at https://tomchamplin.net on March 29, 2021.