Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias describes a mental process by which we have a tendency or a ‘leaning’ towards seeking out evidence that fits with what we already believe.

A further consequence of confirmation bias is that we also tend to ignore, or simply not ‘process’ evidence that contradicts what we believe.

In other words, we have a bias towards evidence that confirms our belief systems (whether they are useful to us or not).

Furthermore, confirmation bias also tends to result in people:

  • Discounting or ignoring information that does not fit with pre-conceptions.
  • Exaggerating elements of an experience that fits with current beliefs.
  • Explaining-away elements that don’t fit with beliefs as ‘exceptions to the rule’.
  • Attributing motivations that fit with current beliefs.
Confirmation Bias banner - gambler with chips in hand

Examples and Effects of Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias does not, of course, always lead to life problems but it is a general principle related to ANY belief system:

Academic Bias

Academic researchers are often accused of ignoring evidence which clearly negates the theories that they propose.

This problem is normally addressed through the process known as ‘peer review’ in which academics from different backgrounds review the research to look for any of these biases within the results. methodologies or conclusions.

Selecting Friends and Aquaintances

Throughout the course of our lives, we have a tendency to seek-out and befriend people who hold the same values and beliefs as ourselves and in this way are able to gain external confirmation that our beliefs are ‘valid’.

We do not, in general terms, tend to develop relationships with other people who hold fundamentally different beliefs to our own, so religious people tend to associate with other religious people, right-wing extremists tend to associate with other right-wing extremists, and so on.

Having to defend your beliefs on a day-to-day basis because you mix with such diverse groups, is hard work and is often avoided through confirmation bias mechanisms.

Life Expectations

Confirmation biases clearly lead to ‘expectations’ in many areas of life and research has shown that we have a tendency to ‘get’ what we expect to ‘get’.

In this respect, not only does confirmation bias keep us firmly trapped inside our current beliefs but is also dictates what we expect to experience and therefore tend to experience!

Contact Paul

You can contact Paul on:

07434 776125

or by e-mail at:

paul@leepsychology.com

Contact Joan

You can contact Joan on:

07434 776504

or by e-mail at:

joan@leepsychology.com

Joan

Hypnotherapist Joan Lee D. Hyp. MIAEBP

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Lee Psychology, Maypole House, Yew Tree Court, Wombourne, South Staffordshire, WV5 9JB.

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