Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. For example, in reading about current political issues, people usually prefer sources that affirm their existing attitudes. They also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations).
A series of experiments in the 1960s suggested that people are biased toward confirming their existing beliefs. Later work re-interpreted these results as a tendency to test ideas in a one-sided way, focusing on one possibility and ignoring alternatives. In certain situations, this tendency can bias people's conclusions. Explanations for the observed biases include wishful thinking and the limited human capacity to process information. Another explanation is that people show confirmation bias because they are weighing up the costs of being wrong, rather than investigating in a neutral, scientific way.
Confirmation biases contribute to overconfidence in personal beliefs and can maintain or strengthen beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. Poor decisions due to these biases have been found in military, political, and organizational contexts.
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Famous quotes containing the words bias and/or confirmation:
“The solar system has no anxiety about its reputation, and the credit of truth and honesty is as safe; nor have I any fear that a skeptical bias can be given by leaning hard on the sides of fate, of practical power, or of trade, which the doctrine of Faith cannot down-weigh.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)
“Whenever reality reinforces a childs fantasied dangers, the child will have more difficulty in overcoming them...So, while parents may not regard a spanking as a physical attack or an assault on a childs body, the child may regard it as such, and experience it as a confirmation of his fears that grown-ups under certain circumstances can really hurt you.”
—Selma H. Fraiberg (20th century)