Confirmation Bias

Seeing What You Want To See

Selecting and acting upon information that confirms your existing beliefs

The Decision Lab

Confirmation Bias - Overview

Confirmation bias occurs when you:

  • Select and act upon information that confirms your existing beliefs, prejudices, preferences or hypotheses
  • Give more weight to evidence that supports your beliefs and diminishes  the evidence that disproves it
  • Recall information selectively
  • Interpret information with a preferential bias

Confirmation bias tends to be stronger with emotionally charged issues and where you hold deeply entrenched beliefs.



    “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” [Robertson Davies]


Why does it happen?

Our brains use shortcuts, which are known as heuristics,

Confirmation bias is a heuristic used when you collect, analyse  and interpret information.

Because the process of evaluating evidence takes time and energy, your brain automatically looks for such shortcuts to speed up the process and make more efficient use of your mental resources.

It has been suggested by evolutionary scientists that our use of these shortcuts is based on survival instincts.

In the modern world this is less to do with survival and more to do with convenience. Processing and assessing information quickly, and formulating new explanations, hypothesis and beliefs takes time. You are therefore more likely to follow the patterns that the human brain has adapted over the last 100,000 years, largely out of necessity,  to take the path of least resistance, .

A further reason why you may exercise confirmation bias is to do with self esteem. 

It can be very threatening to your identity and sense of self to discover that your deeply held views are disproved by the evidence you are assessing. To face evidence that a long held and deeply felt belief is inaccurate or false can be the motivating influence for use of this bias.

As a consequence of this you may look for information that supports rather than disproves your existing beliefs.




Confirmation bias applies to groups

When you interact with other people whose views are known to you, you may have a tendency to adopt a similar position which the rest of the group, or the dominant members, can confirm and thus you fit into the group.

This is referred to as a  “confirmatory thought” which is said to involve “a one-sided attempt to rationalize a particular point of view.”

In a group setting, confirmatory thought can lead to “group-think,” which is where the desire for conformity in the group results in dysfunctional decision making.


Confirmation bias and social media

The algorithms used my Facebook and other social media companies have a “filter bubble effect,” which is where the use of technology amplifies and facilitaes your tendency toward a confirmation bias.

Many other websites also use algorithms to predict and project the information a user may want to see.

Given that you may prefer content that confirms your beliefs, filter bubbles might exclude information that clashes with your existing opinions from your online experience.


Why does it matter?

At the personal level, confirmation bias affects your decision-making and reduces you to only focusing on evidence that confirms your assumptions, beliefs and prejudices, and this will likely result in sub-optimal results.

At the group level, a culture of "group-think" can hinder group decision making by contributing to the assumption that harmony and group coherence are the values most crucial to success.

Whilst this reduces disagreements within the group it also reduces the likelihood of reassessment and fresh thinking, it is also conducive to bad decisions.






How To Avoid Confirmation Bias




    “What the human being is best at doing is interpreting all new information so that their prior conclusions remain intact.” [Warren Buffett]



Confirmation bias is most likely to affect you when you are at the information gathering stage prior to making a decision.

Like most of the demons and gremlins that drive so much of our behaviour, and distort our judgement, confirmation bias occurs unconsciously.

This means that you are most likely unaware of its influence on your decision making thought processes.

As with most unconscious thought processes, if we knew we had them and could see them at work, we would not act upon them.

Therefore, it follows that the first step to avoiding confirmation bias is [a] being aware that it is a problem, and [b] understanding that it is unconscious.


Avoidance Step 1.

  • Start with a neutral and objective fact base by having at least one - and preferably several - third party who inputs at the information gathering stage.

As a personal illustration of this, when I am researching people and subjects for inclusion on this website, I will also search for the contra-view by using negative search phrases and/or searching for reviews and criticisms of the person or subject in view.

 

Avoidance Step 2.

  • In group situations, when you are at the data review analysis and interpretation stage, encourage those with differing opinions to speak.
  • If however you have allowed [or inherited] a culture of compliancy to be created and you are surrounded by "yes men/women", or if you are unfortunate enough to work in such a culture, hire external assistance to provide the wider and counter views.

The best people to use for this are senior interim managers or similar third parties who have extensive experience of your sector.

Alternatively, seek the input and opinion of independent minded natural leaders who are in the frontline of your organisaion and who are part of the informal organisation - that is, they are not part of the official management structure.





Resources:

Excellent and comprehensive article from Shane Parrish of Farnam St: Confirmation Bias And the Power of Disconfirming Evidence







Return from "Confirmation Bias" to: Cognitive Distortions










Chinese (Traditional)EnglishFrenchGermanItalianRussianSpanishVietnamese


Custom Site Search


The Balanced Toolkit




3 Keys Solutions

Think -> Action = Change


Get new posts by email:

LATEST ARTICLES

  1. The Power Pause - Regain Your Balance And Manifest Your Intentions

    Aug 02, 21 01:00 AM

    "The Three Minute Power Pause" is a very simple but powerful technique developed and taught by John Harricharan. It relieves stress and anxiety, helps you regain your balance and manifest your intenti…

    Read More

  2. Julia Galef - Applied Rationality

    Jul 30, 21 01:00 AM

    “Do you have the scout mindset and yearn to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?” Julia Galef is a writer and public speaker on the topics of rationality, science, technology, and design. App…

    Read More

  3. Stanford Prison Experiment - A Masterclass In Self Deception

    Jul 29, 21 04:14 AM

    "The military told me they used the SPE tapes to train people not to behave like our guards. I used to quote that as a good outcome of the research. Now I know they also used it to train interrogators…

    Read More

  4. Philip Zimbardo - How Good People Are Transformed into Perpetrators Of Evil

    Jul 28, 21 03:00 AM

    Philip Zimbardo has contributed greatly to our understanding of the situationist perspective as to why people can change and choose to exercise bad/evil behaviour in response to the pressures and dema…

    Read More

  5. Roxanne - I Will Not Share You With So Many Other Men

    Jul 28, 21 12:00 AM

    The Toxicity Of Addiction To Instagram Self-Validation Roxanne...
    You don't have to put on the red light
    Those days are over
    No more posting selfies on Instagram tonight
    You don't have to sell your bo…

    Read More

  6. How To Win Without Succeeding - Avoid Losing!

    Jul 23, 21 10:31 AM

    We Celebrate Success And Ignore Failure. The personal development and self-help world is steeped in case studies and analysis of success. Numerous studies have been undertaken on successful people to…

    Read More

  7. Hanlons Razor - Never Attribute To Malice That Which Can be Explained By Stupidity

    Jul 20, 21 12:00 AM

    Hanlons Razor - will check your innate tendency to quickly jump to the wrong conclusion and assume something is the result of an intentional malicious action. Applying Hanlon’s Razor will check your…

    Read More

  8. Keeping Things Simple - The Art of Knowing What To Overlook

    Jul 16, 21 12:00 AM

    Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction. The phrase "keeping things simple" is in…

    Read More

  9. Satisficing - When Near Enough Is Good Enough

    Jul 13, 21 12:00 AM

    Satisficing is a heuristic - a practical shortcut - for making decisions that aims for a satisfactory or adequate result, rather than the optimal solution. The opposite decision-making process to sat…

    Read More

  10. Skin In The Game - Invested With Shared Risk And Reward

    Jul 09, 21 12:00 AM

    In business, competent action is required as well as shared risk and reward. Only take advice from people who are already invested in the situation they are advising you about, and where they have som…

    Read More

  11. Black Swans - Impossible To Predict, Rare and Devastating

    Jul 05, 21 12:00 AM

    Black Swans are events that are difficult to predict, occur very occasionally and have potentially severe consequences. It is extremely foolish to just ignore the potential for black swans to occur. T…

    Read More

  12. Nassim Taleb - Focus On The Consequences And Not On The Probability

    Jun 30, 21 12:00 AM

    An investigation of opacity, luck, uncertainty, probability, human error, risk, and decision making when we don’t understand the world. Our world is full of chance and the unknown and the broader canv…

    Read More

  13. Inflection Points - The Tipping Point

    Jun 25, 21 12:00 AM

    The critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place Inflection points occur when there is build up of forces, a critical…

    Read More

  14. Root Cause Analysis

    Jun 22, 21 12:00 AM

    Establishing The Issue That Lies Beneath A Presenting Problem Often the true underlying root issue is not immediately apparent and is only uncovered with persistent investigation. The traditional appl…

    Read More

  15. "The Balanced Toolkit" Approach To Life

    Jun 17, 21 12:00 AM

    Introducing - The Balanced Toolkit The purpose of this site is to show you how to cope in tough times, and to provide you with the tools to do this successfully. The way we do this is by adopting a ba…

    Read More




Support This Site