Thus, the way the hypothesis is framed can have a major impact on our final judgment. Our bias to confirm can also affect how we search for information. For example, what if you didn't know Barry, but you had to decide if he's an extrovert by asking him two of the following four questions. In Theravada Buddhist countries, it is traditional to begin each meditation session with the recitation of a certain set of formulas. An American audience is likely to take one glance at these invocations and to dismiss them as harmless rituals and nothing more. These so-called rituals, however, have been devised and refined by a set of pragmatic and dedicated men and women, and they have a thoroughly practical purpose. They are therefore worthy of deeper inspection. The Buddha was considered contrary in his own day. He was born into an intensely ritualized society, and his ideas appeared thoroughly iconoclastic to the established hierarchy of his own era. On numerous occasions, he disavowed the use of rituals for their own sake, and he was quite adamant about it. This does not mean that ritual has no use. It means that ritual by itself, performed strictly for its own sake, will not get you out of the trap. Indeed, such performance is a part of the trap. If you believe that mere recitation of words will save you, then you only increase your own dependence on words and concepts. This moves you away from the wordless perception of reality rather than toward it. Therefore, the formulae that follow must be practiced with a clear understanding of what they are and why they work. They are not prayers, and they are not mantras. They are not magical incantations. They are psychological cleansing devices that require active mental participation in order to be effective. Mumbled words without intention are useless.

Vipassana meditation is a delicate psychological activity, and the mindset of the practitioner is crucial to its success. The technique works best in an atmosphere of calm, benevolent confidence. And these recitations have been designed to foster those attitudes. Correctly used, they can act as a helpful tool on the path to liberation. Meditation is a tough job. It is an inherently solitary activity. One person battles against enormously powerful forces, part of the very structure of the mind doing the meditating. When you really get into it, you will eventually find yourself confronted with a shocking realization. One day you will look inside and realize the full enormity of what you are actually up against. What you are struggling to pierce looks like a solid wall so tightly knit that not a single ray of light shines through. You find yourself sitting there, staring at this edifice, and you say to yourself, "That? I am supposed to get past that? But it's impossible! That is all there is. That is the whole world. That is what everything means, and that is what I use to define myself and to understand everything around me, and if I take that away the whole world will fall apart and I will die. I cannot get through that. I just can't." It is a very scary feeling, a very lonely feeling. You feel like, "Here I am, all alone, trying to punch away something so huge it is beyond conception." To counteract this feeling, it is useful to know that you are not alone. Others have passed this way before.

They have confronted that same barrier, and they have pushed their way through to the light. They have laid out the rules by which the job can be done, and they have banded together into a fellowship for mutual encouragement and support. The Buddha found his way through this very same wall, and after him came many others. He left clear instructions in the form of the Dhamma to guide us along the same path. And he founded the Sangha, the community of monks and nuns, to preserve that path and to keep each other on it. You are not alone, and the situation is not hopeless. Meditation takes energy. You need courage to confront some pretty difficult mental phenomena and the determination to sit through various unpleasant mental states. Laziness just will not serve. In order to pump up your energy for the job, repeat the following statements to yourself. Feel the intention you put into them. Mean what you say. "I am about to tread the very same path that has been walked by the Buddha and by his great and holy disciples. An indolent person cannot follow that path. May my energy prevail. May I succeed." Am I addicted? If your continued behavior clearly has resulted in negative outcomes in your life and you keep doing it anyway, then there is no other conclusion: you are addicted. Facing that is the only way you'll find the strength to do what must be done to be free. If you still believe you can stop anytime you want, ask yourself, Why haven't I? What need is this behavior meeting?

Ask yourself, What do I feel before and after I indulge in this behavior, and what clues are in those feelings that help me better understand my unmet needs? What am I avoiding with this behavior? A person who routinely drinks to excess may be running from past traumas or current conflicts they'd rather not face. The distraction of the Internet may be a convenient way to avoid admitting you are not happy in your job or relationship and to sidestep your fear of change. However you answer this question, it is valuable information because it marks the spot where you must dig to unearth more pieces to the puzzle of lasting healing. How can I meet this need differently? Once you know what longing you are trying to fulfill, it's easier to see that there are other healthier ways to get there. If pornography is masking the fact that you feel lonely and unlovable and if what you truly need is genuine human connection, then turning off the computer is step one in a campaign to put yourself in a position to meet real people. That may take time, and it may involve the work of self-improvement, but it is a positive path with real potential to meet your need in a way that continued addiction never will. In the old days of tall sailing ships, raising the anchor was hard work. It took a team of sailors working together at the capstan to lift the monstrous thing out of the muck, one heavy link of chain at a time, and stow it away. But after the sweating and exertion were done, a whole new world awaited. Pretty simple advice here - stop assuming the worst about everyone you meet. I know you've done it - I've done it and I'm pretty good at being introspective of my reactions to other people. It's a bad habit that insecurity brings on and constant social interaction can make worse. For example, when I go to the Post Office, I work hard to avoid the assumption that whoever helps me will be angry, tired, and impatient. Sure, sometimes they are all of those things, but other times, they are just a little tired. If you treat them rudely because you assume they'll do the same to you, guess what? They will be rude. However, if you treat everyone you meet with kindness - smiling, speaking nicely, and wishing them a good day, even the most annoyed workers are likely to at least grace you with a smile.

You won't solve this problem overnight. It's something that happens without us even realizing it most of the time. It's a coping mechanism that helps us prepare for what we think will be uncomfortable situations. What causes us to be rude to someone we've never met before? F. Scott Fitzgerald, the American author of The Great Gatsby once said "It's not a slam at you when people are rude - it's a slam at the people they've met before." While Fitzgerald's tongue was firmly in cheek, there is plenty of truth to his statement. Unfortunately, most people won't think to themselves "oh, they're just upset at someone else." They'll see your anger and wonder why you could possibly be upset at theme based on the very limited interaction you've had. It happens because you're not in a friendly frame of mind to start with. Mind-sets have been scientifically proven to have a significant impact on the nature of our social interactions. A mind set is more than just a way of looking at the world - it's the current framework you take into any conversation. It's how you see things. If a certain kind of politics or religion makes you angry, you're far more likely to mistreat someone that defines themselves in those ways, even if they are incredibly interesting and likable. Research has found that we consistently employ confirming strategies in social interactions. In fact, psychologist Mark Snyder notes that our tendency to confirm is so entrenched in our cognitive makeup that it doesn't seem to matter whether a hypothesis comes from a source of high or low credibility, how likely it is that the hypothesis is true, or whether substantial incentives (e.g., monetary rewards) are given for accurate hypothesis testing.10 Our ingrained tendency to focus on confirming data usually wins out. It's one thing to use confirming strategies to judge whether someone is an extrovert or introvert--the consequences of a wrong judgment will not be that important. But what about judgments that may have significant implications for a person's life? Would confirming strategies still occur? Several years ago, the TV show 60 Minutes asked three different polygraphers (let's call them A, B, and C) to conduct a lie detector test on three employees (let's call them X, Y, and Z) to determine who was stealing from a firm. A was told that X was suspected, B was told that Y was suspected, while C was told that Z was suspected, although no reason was given for the suspicion. You can probably guess the results.