Confirmation bias is when we seek out and interpret information in a manner that confirms our existing beliefs and values, where we consciously choose to ignore or dismiss information that contradicts those beliefs and values.

What is confirmation bias? The confirmation bias definition

Confirmation bias is a cognitive bias that occurs when people seek out and prioritize information to confirm existing beliefs while ignoring or downplaying information that contradicts them.

Much like other types of bias, confirmation bias can be harmful. 

For instance, individuals may dismiss evidence of systemic racism or sexism because it contradicts their beliefs that such issues do not exist. Such thinking perpetuates discrimination and inequality.

Different kinds of confirmation bias

If you only seek out information that supports your idea, you will only find information that supports that same idea. That is confirmation bias at its core.

But confirmation bias comes in different forms. Read about the different types below.

Information bias

Information bias or biased search is a type of confirmation bias. It occurs when people seek out information to confirm their existing beliefs while ignoring or dismissing information that contradicts them. 

For example, a person who believes in a conspiracy theory might only seek sources that support their view while ignoring credible sources that debunk the theory.

Another example is today’s search engines such as Google, which help us with this biased tendency. 

For instance, by searching for a question with two variables, such as “is organic food healthier than non-organic food?”, you will be served results that support the pre-existing belief that organic food is healthier than non-organic food. 

If you search for the opposite of that statement, you will get results that support the belief that non-organic food is healthier. 

Bias in scientific research

Biased search can also occur in scientific research, where researchers may unconsciously or consciously search for evidence that supports their hypothesis while ignoring evidence that contradicts it. 

In this case, the bias leads to flawed research conclusions.

Interpretation bias

Interpretation bias, or biased interpretation, occurs when people interpret information in a way that supports their existing beliefs – even if the information is ambiguous or can be interpreted differently.

For example, a person who believes in astrology might attribute any coincidence or event to their astrological sign, even if the connection is tenuous.

Memory bias

Memory bias, or a biased recall of memories, occurs when people selectively remember information that supports their existing beliefs, while forgetting or downplaying contradictory information.

For example, a person who believes in a certain political party might only recall the positive things that party has achieved while forgetting or rationalizing any negative actions.

Additionally, the biased recall of memories contributes to maintaining stereotypes. If someone meets an individual, (who doesn’t fit the stereotypes of his cultural group), that someone is more likely to remember things about the individual that support existing stereotypes. 

Group bias

Group bias occurs when people associate with people who share their existing beliefs, which reinforces those beliefs and creates an echo chamber effect. 

For example, a person who supports a particular sports team might only interact with other fans of that team, creating a bubble where their beliefs are never challenged. 

Examples of confirmation bias

Confirmation bias can manifest in different ways and impact a wide range of decisions and behaviors. Here are some examples of confirmation bias in daily life:

Confirmation bias in the workplace

When people hold biased beliefs or attitudes, they selectively seek out and interpret information that confirms those beliefs while disregarding or minimizing information that contradicts them.

This is one of the ways that confirmation bias occurs in the workplace, where it leads to decisions that perpetuate discrimination. 

It can also be called cherry-picking or my-side bias, which leads to flawed decision-making.

Practical examples of occurrences 

Say a hiring manager is biased towards candidates who share their background or experiences, leading the manager to unconsciously favor those candidates in the hiring process.

An example like that often results in a lack of diversity in the workplace and missed opportunities to hire highly qualified candidates. 

Similarly, if a company has a culture that values certain traits or behaviors over others, candidates who do not fit into those categories may be overlooked for promotions.

How to avoid confirmation bias

Seeking out and interpreting information in a way that confirms our pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses is a natural human tendency. This is why bias is difficult to eliminate. 

However, there are ways to avoid confirmation bias. Read some examples below.

1. Question your assumptions

Be aware of your own assumptions and beliefs, so you can actively question them. 

For example, ask yourself if your beliefs are based on evidence or if they are simply assumptions, and try considering alternative viewpoints by seeking out information that may contradict your assumptions.

2. Look for alternative explanations

When you are faced with information that supports your beliefs, you should not stop your research. Instead, you should look for alternative explanations that may be equally as plausible and valid. 

Try considering the possibility that the information may be biased and incomplete, and actively try to seek out information that challenges your assumptions to cover all bases. 

3. Consider the source of information

Before blindly believing the sources of information that you find because they fit your beliefs, you should evaluate the source and consider the credibility and potential biases.

Be cautious of information that comes from biased or unreliable sources, and only using one single source.

4. Use critical thinking

To evaluate information objectively, you should use critical thinking. First, ask yourself if the evidence you have found supports the conclusion and if there are other more plausible explanations.

Consider the limitations of the evidence and whether there may be other factors that could influence the outcome.


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