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Case building versus unbiased analysis

These can be either useful or unhelpful. Confirmation bias is one of the less-helpful heuristics which exists as a result. The information that we interpret is influenced by existing beliefs, meaning we are more likely to recall it. As a consequence, we tend to see more evidence that enforces our worldview. Confirmatory data is taken seriously, while disconfirming data is treated with skepticism. Our general assimilation of information is subject to deep bias.

Constantly evaluating our worldview is exhausting, so we prefer to strengthen it instead. Plus holding different ideas in our head is hard work.

Confirmation Bias

We ignore contradictory evidence because it is so unpalatable for our brains. According to research by Jennifer Lerner and Philip Tetlock, we are motivated to think critically only when held accountable by others. If we are expected to justify our beliefs, feelings, and behaviors to others, we are less likely to be biased towards confirmatory evidence. This is less out of a desire to be accurate, and more the result of wanting to avoid negative consequences or derision for being illogical.

Ignoring evidence can be beneficial, such as when we side with the beliefs of others to avoid social alienation.

Creationists vs. Evolutionary Biologists A prime example of confirmation bias can be seen in the clashes between creationists and evolutionary biologists. The latter use scientific evidence and experimentation to reveal the process of biological evolution over millions of years.

The former see the Bible as being true in the literal sense and think the world is only a few thousand years old.

How Can We Avoid Confirmation Bias?

Creationists are skilled at mitigating the cognitive dissonance caused by factual evidence that disproves their ideas. Evolutionary biologists have used fossil records to prove that the process of evolution has occurred over millions of years. Meanwhile, some creationists view the same fossils as planted by a god to test our beliefs.


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Others claim that fossils are proof of the global flood described in the Bible. They ignore evidence to contradict these conspiratorial ideas and instead use it to confirm what they already think. Doomsayers Take a walk through London on a busy day, and you are pretty much guaranteed to see a doomsayer on a street corner, ranting about the upcoming apocalypse.

Facts Don't Win Fights: Here’s How to Cut Through Confirmation Bias - Tali Sharot

Return a while later and you will find them still there, announcing that the end has been postponed. Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before.

Indeed, he may even show a new fervor about convincing and converting people to his view. Confirmation bias in music is interesting because it is actually part of why we enjoy it so much. As music unfolds, the brain constantly updates its estimates of when new beats will occur, and takes satisfaction in matching a mental beat with a real-in-the-world one. The ability to predict each successive beat or syllable is intrinsically pleasurable.

This is a case of confirmation bias serving us well. We learn to understand musical patterns and conventions, enjoying seeing them play out. Homeopathy The multibillion-dollar homeopathy industry is an example of mass confirmation bias. Homeopathy was invented by Jacques Benveniste, a French researcher studying histamines. Benveniste was so certain of his hypothesis that he found data to confirm it and ignored that which did not.

Many of the people who worked with him withdrew from science as a result. Yet homeopathy supporters have only grown in numbers.

Supporters cling to any evidence to support homeopathy while ignoring that which does not. Scientific Experiments In good scientific experiments, researchers should seek to falsify their hypotheses, not to confirm them. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as shown by homeopathy. There are many cases of scientists interpreting data in a biased manner, or repeating experiments until they achieve the desired result. Confirmation bias also comes into play when scientists peer-review studies.

They tend to give positive reviews of studies that confirm their views and of studies accepted by the scientific community. This is problematic. Inadequate research programs can continue past the point where the evidence points to a false hypothesis. Confirmation bias wastes a huge amount of time and funding. We must not take science at face value and must be aware of the role of biased reporting.

This article can provide an opportunity for you to assess how confirmation bias affects you. Consider looking back over the previous paragraphs and asking:. Being cognizant of confirmation is not easy, but with practice, it is possible to recognize the role it plays in the way we interpret information.

You need to search out disconfirming evidence. All truths — even those that had seemed so certain as to be immune to the very possibility of revision — are essentially manufactured. Indeed, the very notion of the objectively true is a socially constructed myth. Our knowing minds are not embedded in truth.


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Rather, the entire notion of truth is embedded in our minds, which are themselves the unwitting lackeys of organizational forms of influence. Be sure to check out our entire latticework of mental models. Signaling and countersignaling are hidden methods of communicating with each other. Every minute of the day, we send signals to others to convey that we are intelligent, successful, […]. When you travel as an active participant, the experience can transform the way you think, and how you see the world.

We plan […]. Ullian described this bias in The Web of Belief as such: The desire to be right and the desire to have been right are two desires, and the sooner we separate them the better off we are. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects. They can survive and even be bolstered by evidence that most uncommitted observers would agree logically demands some weakening of such beliefs. They can even survive the destruction of their original evidential bases.

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Confirmation Bias And the Power of Disconfirming Evidence

The striking thing is that it would not take much effort to establish validity in most of these cases… but people prefer reassurance to research. Some research has suggested that the modern media environment plays a role in reinforcing confirmation bias. For example, getting news from social media often means switching topics more quickly and focusing on each source for a shorter amount of time. As a result, people are more likely to invest their limited attention in already-preferred sources. Confirmation bias causes people to overlook pivotal information both in leadership and in everyday life.

A business executive might fail to investigate a new opportunity because of preconceived notions from a past engagement with similar ideas. In the study, a group of students whose members held opposing viewpoints on the topic of capital punishment were asked to evaluate two fictitious studies. One study provided data in support of the argument that capital punishment deters crime, while the other supported the opposite viewpoint — that capital punishment had no appreciable effect on overall criminality in the population.

The net effect of having their position challenged was an intellectual retrenchment of their existing belief system. A detailed analysis of social media habits by both ordinary voters and political candidates shows that, broadly speaking, both more liberal and more conservative users have specific media sources they are more likely to seek out and share with others. The challenging cognitive tendency toward confirmation bias can be amplified by technology in other ways.