Confirmation Bias

You probably like to believe that your beliefs are the result of years of experience and objective analysis of the information you have available. The reality is that all of us are susceptible to a tricky problem known as a confirmation bias. While we like to imagine that our beliefs are rational, logical, and objective, the fact is that our ideas are often based on paying attention to the information that upholds our ideas and ignoring the information that challenges our existing beliefs.

A confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias that involves favoring information that confirms previously existing beliefs or biases. For example, imagine that a person holds a belief that left-handed people are more creative than right-handed people. Whenever this person encounters a person that is both left-handed and creative, they place greater importance on this "evidence" supporting their already existing belief. This individual might even seek "proof" that further backs up this belief while discounting examples that do not support this idea.

Confirmation biases impact how people gather information, but they also influence how people interpret and recall information. For example, people who support or oppose a particular issue will not only seek information that supports their beliefs, they will also interpret news stories in a way that upholds their existing ideas and remember things in a way that also reinforces these attitudes.

A number of experiments conducted during the 1960s demonstrated that people have a tendency to seek information that confirms their existing beliefs. Unfortunately, this type of bias can prevent us from looking at situations objectively, can influence the decisions we make, and can lead to poor or faulty choices.

Kendra Cherry writing in