Confirmation Bias

Seeing What You Want To See

Selecting and acting upon information that confirms your existing beliefs


Confirmation Bias. Graphic

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 by 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.


Further Reading:

Excellent and comprehensive article from Shane Parrish of Farnam St:

Confirmation Bias And the Power of Disconfirming Evidence






Earning The Right To Hold An Opinion

Any fool can sound off and reject a belief system or a differing perspective, but the minimum requirement for an authentic rejection is a basic comprehension of the strengths as well as the weaknesses of that which is being rejected.

Unless you have held a belief and have developed a considerable comprehension of it you are not in a position of sufficient knowledge to reject it.

Further Reading:

Another excellent article from Shane Parrish of Farnham Street:

The Work Required To Hold An Opinion







    I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.

    [Charlie Munger]






Further Reading:

Why You Should Embrace Anomalies – The Value Of Disconfirming Evidence


Return from "Confirmation Bias" to: Cognitive Distortions







English Chinese (Traditional) Russian French German Italian Spanish Vietnamese



LATEST ARTICLES

  1. The Power Of Patience - Why You Need The World's Toughest Quality

    Nothing in the world can take the place of patience. Patience and persistence are omnipotent. In everyday life, patience is often overshadowed by the desire for immediate results. We live in an era of…

    Read More

  2. Demonizing The Other and Personal Acts Of Compassion

    What Does Demonizing The Other Mean? Demonizing the other refers to the act of portraying a group of people or an individual as inherently evil, threatening, or inferior. It often serves to justify di…

    Read More

  3. Why You Should Embrace Anomalies - The Incredible Value Of Disconfirming Evidence

    Is Your Desire To Be Right Greater Than Your Desire To Have Been Right? An anomaly is a deviation from what is expected or commonly regarded as the norm. It often appears as an unexpected observation…

    Read More

  4. Amazing Grace - The Majesty And The Mercy of Freedom From Your Pain

    "I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see." The hymn and popular song "Amazing Grace" was written 250 years ago by John Newton, a former slave trader who in 1748 nearly died in a…

    Read More

  5. The Transformative Power Of Acceptance

    Experience The Power Of Acceptance. This website contains about 500,000 words. You could read every single word and it wouldn't make any real difference to you. You might become better informed, but t…

    Read More

  6. Inversion - The Power Of Opposite Thinking

    How To Avoid The Unwanted Outcome. The power of opposite thinking, also known as inversion, lies in its ability to stimulate creativity, enhance problem-solving, and provide a fresh perspective on cha…

    Read More

  7. Are You Aligned With Reality? Or Do You See What You Believe?

    We tend to see that which aligns with what we believe, and to act upon that rather than acting on reality. Being aligned with reality starts with a clear and accurate understanding of the world. It me…

    Read More

  8. The Law Of Response and Outcome

    A New Approach To A New Life At time of writing we are entering a new year which is traditionally a time of making resolutions to change our behaviour and improve the quality of our lives. And yet pow…

    Read More

  9. Clear Thinking - Turning Ordinary Moments Into Extraordinary Results

    There are two ways to handle the world - try to predict, or try to prepare. "Clear Thinking" by Shane Parrish, published in Oct 2023, is a laudable testament to the art of cogent thinking, and will be…

    Read More

  10. Self Dialogue - Working With Your Many Selves

    Self Dialogue Is About Working With ALL Levels Of Your Mind. The key to effective self dialogue is to have tools, techniques and resources that work with all levels of your mind. This simple self-faci…

    Read More

  11. The Balanced Brain - The Ultimate Route To Personal Transformation

    How To Experience The Benefits Of A Balanced Brain. Underpinning all of the belief systems and practices that offer routes to personal change, transformation and spiritual growth is the balanced brain…

    Read More

  12. How To Make Better Decisions - By Avoiding The Narrative Trap

    To Understand The Truth We Have To See The Whole Picture. One of the best ways to make better decisions is to have a deeper understanding of the many things that might stop that happening. To understa…

    Read More

  13. The Greatest Love - The Most Important Relationship You Will Ever Have

    Yet Most Will Never Know It Everyone of us has a place, in our hearts there's a space, that is home to the greatest love of all. This love transcends everything we think we know about the world of for…

    Read More

  14. Everything Is Connected And Why You Don't Feel It

    ...And Why It Matters As human beings we are skating on very thin ice with our sense of self and certainty about "how things are" and what we like to think of as reality:

    - What if everything we think…

    Read More

  15. Who Is In Charge Of Your Brain?

    How Not To Be Stupid. Who is in charge of your brain? This is not a silly questions. It matters because the outcomes that you experience in your life are determined by how you respond to the events th…

    Read More

  16. How To Be A Winner On A Very Large Scale

    The Incredible Benefits Of Selective Attention. This is not a typical article about how to be a winner. We are not going to talk about goal setting, the importance of habits, the power of focus and al…

    Read More

  17. The Metagame Approach To Life

    How To Achieve Your Biggest Objectives. The metagame approach to life is all about winning and achieving your biggest objectives by: - Understanding the bigger picture
    - Being better by doing things d…

    Read More

  18. Shantideva - The Way Of The Bodhisattva

    Walking The Path Of Compassion. Shantideva the 8th century Indian Buddhist sage is famous for his treatise "The Way of the Bodhisattva" delivered as an extended teaching to the monks of Nalanda monast…

    Read More

  19. Reframing History - Deconstruction And Discussion Not Destruction

    History is always about context, not imposing our own moral values on the past. For those of us fortunate enough to live within western democracies, we are living in an age where a vociferous and into…

    Read More

  20. Tao Te Ching - Connecting To Your True Source Of Power.

    How To Be Lived By The Tao. The Tao Te Ching is one of those books that many people read, few understand, and even fewer put into practice. The only way to know the Tao is to experience it, and it is…

    Read More

  21. How Things Really Are - The Inbuilt Design Flaws

    Chaos, Disorder And Decay Is The Natural Order Of Things. Nobody has the perfect life. We all struggle and strive to attain health, wealth and personal happiness. Yet these three big areas: our health…

    Read More

  22. Intuition Or Anxiety - Are There Angels Or Devils Crawling Here?

    How To Tell The Difference Between Intuition and Anxiety. How do you know whether the voice of your intuition is real or just the product of your inner anxiety? Several months ago I was having a drink…

    Read More

  23. What Is Truth - How To Tell A Partial Truth From The Whole Truth?

    How the truth and nothing but the truth is often not the whole truth. My great aunty Flo broke her arm and died. It is true that she broke her arm in 1923. It is also true that she died in 1949. But t…

    Read More

  24. Duality And Life Beyond Your Thinking Mind

    Duality and life beyond your thinking mind focuses on the limitations of time, foreground and background, duality and "stuckness". The first aspect of duality and life beyond your thinking mind focuse…

    Read More

  25. The Conscious Mind Is Limited - Be Aware And Be Prepared

    Being aware is the first stage of being prepared. The conscious mind is limited in so many ways. There are some who would argue that there is no such thing as conscious thought and that it is represen…

    Read More

  26. Your Inner Map Of Reality - Here's Why You Think The Way You Do

    The big picture of how your inner map of reality creates your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. Your inner map of reality is based on the filters of your own ethnic, national, social, family and rel…

    Read More

  27. The Failure Of Cancel Culture - Suppression Not Engagement

    Why we need to wear our beliefs lightly and develop negative capability. Throughout history people have campaigned to fight beliefs, ideologies, and injustices that they perceived to be oppressive, di…

    Read More

  28. 4 Big Reasons Why We Get Stuck In Our Attempts At Personal Change

    Most People Spend Their Entire Life Imprisoned Within The Confines Of Their Own Thoughts. This first of the 4 big reasons why we get stuck is, in my view, the most important. The "self-help industry…

    Read More

  29. How Do I Change And Why Is It So Hard?

    We Would Rather Die Than Change, And We Usually Do In my experience, the vast majority of people who say they want to change don’t change. Most people reading this won’t change because they don’t real…

    Read More

  30. The Illusion Of A Separate Self - Windows 11 With Self Awareness!

    Beyond the content of your mind you are so much more than you think you are. When we talk of "myself" this is the conventional way of referring to our self image which is in fact the ego's constructio…

    Read More



Get new posts by email:









Zen-Tools.Net





Support This Site