Have you ever wondered where your beliefs and opinions come from?

Or how you make sense of the world that we live in?

Why you read certain newspapers and not others?

We like to think that we are able to make judgements and decisions in an objective and logical way. But, that's not always the case.

What Is Confirmation Bias?

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Confirmation bias is the human tendency to selectively gather and process information in order to confirm our assumptions and preconceptions, whether they are true or not.

It not only affects the way we gather information but also how we process and remember it.

In other words, we don’t learn rationally. We don't take in information and then make an objective judgment. Instead, the way we learn is influenced by what we already know and who we are.

How Does Confirmation Bias Impact Our Decisions?

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Everyday we are bombarded with information. It comes from other people, the internet, social media, our experience, and various other sources. Our minds must find a way to process and store this information.

One way we do this is by developing shortcuts. Confirmation Bias is a cognitive shortcut we take when we are under pressure to make decisions or take action.

As humans, our need for consistency makes us open to bias. Our brains would rather see the world as logical than as complex shades of grey.

Quiz

Why do we have Confirmation Bias?

We do not want to change our opinions

Too much information for us to process

Because human beings are lazy

Confirmation Bias In Action

Byte Author Uploaded ImageIn 1979, a team from Stanford University conducted an experiment. Researchers recruited two groups of people to participate in a study: people who were in favour of the death penalty and those who were against it.

The researchers asked the participants to read studies, half of which had evidence supporting the death penalty and half of which had evidence against it.

At the end of the experiment, all of the participants felt even more strongly about their original stances on the death penalty.

Why?

Because they focused only on the evidence that supported their prior beliefs and ignored the rest.

Impact Of Confirmation Bias On The Way We Research

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Confirmation bias occurs when an individual looks for and uses information to support their own ideas or beliefs.

If you were to search “Are cats better than dogs?” in Google, what results would you get?You would get sites listing all the reasons why cats are better.

However, if you were to search “Are dogs better than cats?” Google would only provide you with sites that believe dogs are better than cats.

What does this show?

Phrasing questions in a one-sided will bias your searches to information that's consistent with your opinion.

Quiz

What is the best way to ask this question?

Are dogs the best?

Are cats the best?

How To Avoid Confirmation Bias?

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on UnsplashPhoto by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

Here are 4 ways to combat Confirmation Bias:

  1. Check your sources! Is it reputable?

  2. Get uncomfortable! This may mean looking at resources that you don't like. If you want to understand all sides of an issue, you will need to hear from all sides.

  3. Don't rely on Facebook for your information! We are normally friends with people who think the way we do. So by design, Facebook is biased towards your beliefs.

  4. Listen! Actively seek out people with opposing views.

Video Explanation

Still confused? Don't worry. Confirmation Bias is complex.

This video explains Confirmation Bias by using an investment example.

Summary

Byte Author Uploaded ImageConfirmation Bias affects everyone and is part of being human. The first step is being aware that Confirmation Bias exists.

The next time you have a strong opinion about something or need to make a decision, challenge yourself to:

  • Look for ways to challenge what you think you know, remember, and understand.

  • Seek out information from a range of sources.

  • Try to consider situations from multiple perspectives.

  • Discuss your thoughts with others.

  • Most importantly, be open to being wrong.

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This Byte has been authored by

KM

Karen Mulchinock

Empathy is crucial to human centric design