Confirmation Bias

Apr 3, 2018 by

Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing belief’s or theories.  This means that we process information by looking for or interpreting information in a way that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs. We are much better at processing information in a rational, objective manner if we do not have an emotional attachment (belief, opinion) to the issue. Why do we do this?  One explanation is that we develop confirmation biases in order to process information efficiently.  It takes time to consider multiple viewpoints and often, especially when we live in a hostile environment, our survival depends on quick action and it is adaptive to depend on our instinctive, automatic reflexes.  Another reason for confirmation bias has to do with the ego – we don’t want to admit that a belief that we value highly is incorrect. Confirmation Bias occurs in several contexts: In the context of decision-making, once we have made a decision, we are likely to look for information that supports the decision; we look for confirmation that a theory or hypothesis is true by focusing on positive evidence and ignoring negative evidence; we use a confirmation bias in impression formation when we are meeting a new person and someone else has already given us information about that person that has caused us to form a prior expectation of who that person is; if we have a belief about a person’s character or personality, we will ask them questions and treat them in a way that supports those expectations. These factors may lead to risky decision-making and cause us to overlook important information or warning signs.

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