AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 22

LICENSE TO LEARN

Confirmation bias

BY ROD MACHADO

Saying no to the Yes Man
HAVE YOU EVER FLOWN with someone who agreed with
every decision you made, even the ones that played out
badly? I'm speaking of someone who kept saying yes to
your every muse.
"I think the forecast for icing conditions en route
is unlikely to be correct." Yes, you're right. The current
pireps are probably incorrect, too.
"The engine's oil temp is suddenly running a bit
high, but that shouldn't be a problem." You're right
again. The fluctuating oil pressure needle is probably
an unrelated issue.

Each of us has a Yes Man (or woman)
accompanying us everywhere we go. He or
she manifests itself in the form of a cognitive
liability that psychologists call confirmation bias.

ROD MACHADO 

is a CFII, a
motivational
speaker, and
the author of
several books on
flight training.

"There's no need to take an instrument proficiency
check just because I haven't logged instrument time in
two years. I know of many pilots in my position that
fly IFR just fine even though they're not current." So
true. Just because the FAA sets standards for instrument currency, this doesn't necessarily apply to a person
of your skill.
Do you know someone like this? I think you do. It's
you (and me).
I'm speaking of that part of us known as our Yes Man.
Each of us has a Yes Man (or woman) accompanying us everywhere we go. He or she manifests in the
form of a cognitive liability that psychologists call confirmation bias.
Confirmation bias is our dysfunctional predilection
to pick and choose information that supports our beliefs
while dismissing any data that doesn't agree. It urges us
to interpret information in a manner that affirms a decision without revealing its weaknesses. Confirmation bias
is your Yes Man hard at work.
So, what does having a Yes Man do for you? He makes
your life easier. Unfortunately, if you're a pilot he doesn't
necessarily make it longer. Contradictory information
makes the brain work harder. Your Yes Man eases this
burden by favoring information that supports your ideals,
desires, analyses, and ambitions. While this disposition
might be an asset on land, it's seldom an asset aloft.

22  |  AOPA PILOT  December 2013

Suppose you flew 300 miles to judge an all-day tennis tournament. After eight hours courtside you notice
that your eyeballs move back and forth on their own.
Your fatigue leads you to believe that your ocular oscillations will enhance your instrument scan. Silly you.
You're not worried about dozing off aloft because in the
past you've willed yourself to stay awake. You incorrectly conclude that where there's a will, there's awake.
Thank you, Yes Man. There might indeed be a wake.
Seeking to further support your intention to fly,
you recall attending one of Rod Machado's safety seminars where he stated that the jaw motion from shelling
and eating sunflower seeds can help keep you awake.
However, your Yes Man prevents you from properly
assessing Rod's caveat that eating sunflower seeds can
keep you awake long enough for you to hallucinate from
lack of sleep.
Halfway home, the fatigue-induced hallucinations kick in. You find yourself alternately pushing
each rudder pedal just to watch the inclinometer's ball
bounce back and forth between each end of the glass
tube. You're not sure why this is so pleasing, but it does
make you happy. It's as if you're back in the judging
box. Suddenly the lady controller's voice grows a bit
frosty after she asks you for an altitude report and you
reply by saying, "Fifteen, love." Congratulations. You're
an accident in the making and have your Yes Man to
thank for it.
In many ways confirmation bias serves us well, but
only as long as the cost of a poor decision is less than
the mental discomfort incurred by thinking it through
carefully. So what's a pilot to do?
How about saying no to your Yes Man, to see if you
should believe him? You can do this by making a conscious attempt to prove your important decisions wrong,
after you've looked for reasons to prove them right. After
all, attempting to prove yourself (your hypothesis) wrong
is the basis of the scientific method. It's how a scientist
discovers what's true instead of what he or she wants to
be true. Rebutting your Yes Man with a no is an effective strategy that every pilot should use to counter the
potentially negative effects of confirmation bias. And, if
tennis and flying are your business, it's a strategy that
could lengthen your career on a court of clay instead of
judging it in a court of NTSB law.
AOPA
WEB

www.rodmachado.com


http://www.rodmachado.com

AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013

AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013
Contents
President’s Position
Visual Approach
Letters
Waypoints
Proficient Pilot
Foundation Focus
License to Learn
Pilot Counsel
Fly Well
What Happens in Vegas...
AOPA Sweepstakes
Aviation Jobs
Gift Guide
Pilot Products
Pilot Products
News
People
Yacht of the Air
Around the World in 25 Days
Aviation Legends Walter Extra
Safety Pilot Landmark Accident: Unpredicted, Unadvised, Unaware
Summit 2013: Meeting Mr. Baker
Technique
Proficiency
Wx Watch
Technology
Ownership
Frugal Flier
Never Again
State and Local Action
Member Products
AOPA Foundation
Member Services
Government Affairs
AOPA Insurance Agency
Fly by Wire
Pilots
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - President’s Position
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 5
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 6
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 7
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 8
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 9
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Visual Approach
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 11
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Letters
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 13
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 14
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 15
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Waypoints
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 17
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Proficient Pilot
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 19
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Foundation Focus
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 21
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - License to Learn
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 23
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Pilot Counsel
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 25
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Fly Well
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 27
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - What Happens in Vegas...
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 29
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - AOPA Sweepstakes
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 31
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Aviation Jobs
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 33
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Gift Guide
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Pilot Products
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Pilot Products
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 37
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - News
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 39
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - People
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 41
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Yacht of the Air
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 43
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 44
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 45
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 46
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 47
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 48
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 49
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Around the World in 25 Days
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 51
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 52
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 53
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 54
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 55
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 56
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 57
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 58
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 59
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Aviation Legends Walter Extra
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 61
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 62
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 63
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Safety Pilot Landmark Accident: Unpredicted, Unadvised, Unaware
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 65
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 66
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 67
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Summit 2013: Meeting Mr. Baker
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 69
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 70
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 71
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Technique
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 73
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 74
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 75
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Proficiency
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 77
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 78
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Wx Watch
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 80
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Technology
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 82
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Ownership
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 84
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 85
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Frugal Flier
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 87
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Never Again
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 89
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 90
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 91
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - State and Local Action
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 93
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Member Products
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 95
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - AOPA Foundation
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 97
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Member Services
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 99
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Government Affairs
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 101
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - AOPA Insurance Agency
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 103
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 104
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 105
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 106
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Fly by Wire
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 108
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 109
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 110
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - 111
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Pilots
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2013 - Cover4
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