Confirmation Bias and Live Bait

Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. 

When people would like a certain idea or concept to be true, they end up 

believing it to be true.” 

Shahram Heshmat, Ph. D. Psychology – April 23, 2015

You are biased.

In America’s current sociological climate, that might be a very insulting sentence for you to read.  It almost seems like nowadays “bias” has replaced other terms considered “fightin’ words” – like “yellow belly” in the Old West or “dishonorable” to a medieval knight.

But….I still say …  you are biased.

Don’t worry, I am biased, too. In fact, we all are. All of us humans show bias in almost every decision we make, from which hand we use (right or left biased?) to pick up our salad fork to whether we eat salad at all and the reasons behind it. The real challenge in this, I think, is, as decision makers, is the degree to which we can admit our own bias and be be agreeable to it. In other words, I think it is healthy when we call can admit that we each have our particular biases, and make sound decisions anyway, because we are actively looking for evidence that is contrary to our hypotheses. If we find contrary evidence, we should change the hypotheses.

I lead with this definition to admit to all readers (both of you, in fact) that I very well may have been a victim of my own confirmation bias this past month. In this very column I have hypothesized that the current Rule Curve (Alabama Power’s marching orders from the Federal Government on when and how to raise and lower the water  level) of Lake Martin will definitely increase support industries around here. I think that the next thirty years or so will be a time of birth and growth for all kinds of businesses that revolve around the wants and needs of the people that frequent our lovely lands. I share with hypotheses with many hundreds of people, so I know I am in danger of looking for confirmation.

Yet, a few weeks ago when I called a cell phone number in search of live bait, I found much more than threadfin shad. I think I found a great example of support businesses that are popping up all around Lake Martin.

Alex Ray runs a live bait business. He supplies threadfin shad to anglers that need good bait. As any angler will tell you, there are many good spots to fish if you have good bait. The story I would like to relate unfolded when I called Alex and let him know that I would like to buy some live minnows with which to try and catch some striped bass with my sons.  I soon learned that Alex now runs his “Live Bait” operation full time. Such is the demand for superior shad (a member of the minnow species, known to be favored by striped bass) that Alex is making a living being the conduit for Lake Martin, supplying both the professional guides like David Hare and Alex City Guide service, and weekend amateurs like me.

This fact struck me like a thunderbolt. Wait a minute, I thought. You mean there is enough demand for quality live minnows that this young man can sustain himself? He can drive two hours north to cast nets for them, drag them in, store them in live wells, and even deliver to you on location? Never in a hundred years would I have dreamed this possible. But that only revealed another bias that I have – local bias.

I am from here. Raised up. Both sides of my family.  I can trace our local livin’ back almost 200 years. Maybe your people have been in the lake area for longer and that is cool with me. That means we both have a limited vision (sometimes) on what Lake Martin’s potential is. Sometimes it takes someone who wasn’t born at Russell Hospital to open our eyes to the possibilities like tourism and its related fields. Do you know anyone with local bias? Hint: they pepper their language with absolute words like “never” and “always.”

What in the world does this have to do with a real estate column?

Everything, I think. When anglers that vacationed in Florida realized that they could get good live bait, all year long, by merely idling out to the pass and calling “live bait…. live bait” on their radios, it was a game changer. They came more often. When their non-fishing family members realized that there were pretty good restaurants and pretty fun other things to do, they came, too. You get my drift. It snowballs.

There is no stock ticker for Lake Martin real estate. There is no way to judge, moment to moment, the direction of value for a waterfront lot or home here. Not yet. It is still a long term asset that rewards long term analysis. For right now, I study the facts like real estate results, and I complement the facts with my gut and my observation.

Maybe it’s just confirmation bias, but if we are a place that can support a business dedicated to threadfin shad, Lake Martin is a place on the rise. That’s what my gut says. It is more than made up with my observation of this and my other two high school friends that have recently started businesses focused on helping out of town owners manage their lake properties.

The new Rule Curve is already affecting our community in positive ways.

Now that I am done, I think I will go fishing.