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gailcalled's avatar

Would you give me a brief and succinct definition of "confirmation bias"?

Asked by gailcalled (54644points) January 24th, 2011

This subject has shown up several times recently. It seems to be worth becoming familiar with, no?

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16 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

@syz: That kind of predictable thinking now has an official name?

syz's avatar

Lol, isn’t there a label for everything now?

crisw's avatar

And, just to add, it’s important to name it because it’s such a common logical trap. It’s why people believe in everything from horoscopes to lucky numbers to the power of prayer.

KhiaKarma's avatar

I have seen that term 3 times today and this is the 3rd time @yarlady has posted under me so
that must mean that I am meant to be friends with her

YARNLADY's avatar

You go to the parking lot, and Hubby finds a parking place right away – because he is a Parking Space Magician. Statistically – who knows? We only remember the times he gets one, not the times he doesn’t.

You buy a new car and suddenly notice every other car on the road is exactly like yours. Never mind the ones that aren’t.

gailcalled's avatar

My sister just knitted me a woolen cap. Due to the bizarre misconception that I lose, drop or destroy possessions, she had sewed a handmade name tag on the inside of said cap. At least she didn’t tie the mittens to a string.

poisonedantidote's avatar

One of my definitions would be: The habbit of turning a blind eye to things that don’t match your preconceptions.

Another would be: Adding up all the pros and cons to reach a decision, and then giving one side more weight than the other, just to favor the outcome that is already inline with your preconceptions.

It can be a conscious thing, but is usually subconscious.

ETpro's avatar

@gailcalled @syz gave you a great definition of it. Yes, it is worth becoming familiar with. Spot it in others and you know you may not be able to sway them with mere facts. People with serious confirmation bias dwell in an evidence free zone where only evidence that supports their ideology is permitted. It’s also worth becoming familiar with it to constantly guard against letting it could your own critical reasoning.

WasCy's avatar

chauvinism of all kinds

gailcalled's avatar

MY ex-father-in-law lost his car once in the parking lot at Fenway Park. We had to wait until everyone left in order to locate the car.

After that, we tied a fluorescent orange pendant to his old-fashioned, sticking-up radio antenna. F-i-l insisted that it was never his fault. He drove, the rest of us were supposed to pay attention to the location.

@ETpro: I love that mistyping “cloud” gives “could.”

iamthemob's avatar

I just want to reemphasize what @poisonedantidote said – confirmation bias is most often something that happens completely subconsciously. I think of it as the tendency to notice the times when something happens that supports a preconceived idea, and forget that it doesn’t happen the rest of the time.

My favorite example that I think happens to all of us at one time or another (or maybe that’s just a result of confirmation bias ;-)) is walking under a streetlight when it goes out. There was a time that I was convinced that it happened to me all the time, and irrationally (but not seriously) that maybe I had something to do with it. Of course, removed now, it wasn’t happening every night, and the nights it happened it happened once. It’s fairly certain that I walked under 99.999999% of the streetlights in my life and they didn’t go out or were out already. And it’s pretty certain that many other random people walked under other lights when they were going out. But I noticed when it happened because it meant something to me.

crisw's avatar


On another discussion site, I remember a conversation with a woman who was utterly convinced that she made the lights go out and absolutely could not be persuaded otherwise.

iamthemob's avatar

@crisw, at the time I was so convinced myself that I proved it to a couple of friends of mine.

those were dark times, no pun intended.

lonelydragon's avatar

Only looking for evidence to support one’s own beliefs or conclusions.

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