Confirmation Bias

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By aaron

Confirmation Bias is a type of cognitive bias. It can take many forms, but in general, it refers to our tendency to seek out information that confirms our beliefs while ignoring information that challenges our beliefs. As with most cognitive biases and logical fallacies, confirmation bias can be intentional or unintentional.

A good example of confirmation bias can be seen by looking at the debate over whether or not vaccines cause autism. People who believe that vaccines cause autism often arrive at that viewpoint by only noticing the children who get vaccinated shortly before showing signs of autism. Then, they conclude that the vaccines must be the cause of the autism.

The problem is that they don't notice all of the other people who got vaccines but never developed autism. Nor do they see the people who were not vaccinated but still develop symptoms of autism. By only noticing the minority of people who verify their beliefs about vaccines, opponents of vaccinations are falling victim to confirmation bias.

But it is important to understand that anyone can fall for confirmation bias, even logical people. For example, a scientist doing research with good, open-minded intentions could still arrive at an incorrect conclusion if their research is designed in such a way that it allows confirmation bias to come into the picture. This is why good research will use placebo groups, blinded trials, peer review, and other relevant techniques to either remove or at least notice potential cases of confirmation bias. (Or any other cognitive biases for that matter).

The site Rational Wiki brings up another good point about confirmation bias. We tend to think that we are avoiding confirmation bias by exposing ourselves to other viewpoints. After all, if confirmation bias is the tendency to only look for information that agrees with you, then it would seem like all you would have to do to avoid it is go look for information that disagrees with your view.

But voluntarily exposing yourself to other viewpoints can itself be confirmation bias if you do it for the wrong reasons. Often, people seek out opposing views solely for the purpose of refuting the viewpoint, rather than trying to understand the viewpoint with an open mind.

To truly keep an open mind, you need to look at opposing views while understanding that there is always a chance that your viewpoint could be wrong. This is obviously easier said than done, because, like all cognitive biases, confirmation bias results from the natural behavior of the brain. But just knowing about such biases can be a major step toward overcoming them. #skepticism #skeptic #fallacy #psychology #science #logic #bias #cognitive bias #fallacies

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