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Posted: November 12th, 2022

Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias

What is confirmation bias? Explain what bad thought process we use when we commit confirmation bias. Why is it an unreliable way to reason? Think of a time when you or someone you know committed confirmation bias. Why is your example an example of confirmation bias and not something else? How should the evidence be gathered and evaluated in a way that avoided confirmation bias? Explain the measures that someone should take to avoid committing the mistake.

Please do not use sources other than the assigned readings, lectures, and the Kahneman textbook. When you quote, it tells me that you didn’t do the readings. For every source, you take ideas or words from, be sure to use quotation marks where appropriate and mention the source author.

Your journal should be about 500-1000 words. (2 1/2-3 pages double-spaced).

Please see the rubric below for grading criteria.

Reading: “The Trap of Confirmation Bias,” Gilovich

The Trap of Confirmation Bias

Thomas Gilovich

Thomas GilovichLinks to an external site., a professor of psychology at Cornell University, is the author, with Lee Ross, of “The Wisest One in the RoomLinks to an external site.: How You Can Benefit from Social Psychology’s Most Powerful Insights.”

UPDATED DECEMBER 22, 2015, 3:21 AM

Some of our most pronounced intellectual weaknesses are the by-product of our greatest intellectual strengths. Many perceptual illusions, for example, are the result of the brain’s remarkable facility for organizing incoming sensations into meaningful units.

The widespread acceptance of astrological claims, although misguided in light of empirical evidence on the subject, can likewise be traced to one of the mind’s most remarkable faculties. The brain’s job is to make sense of the world, and it does so — easily, rapidly and generally accurately — by finding connections between things.

The brain’s job is to make sense of the world, and it does so — easily, rapidly and generally accurately — by finding connections between things.

And those connections can be easy to find. If you know a bit about astrology and learn that a friend is a Libra, you may identify, automatically and effortlessly, parts of your friend’s personality that are said to be characteristic of Libras. Most people have multifaceted personalities and Libras are thought to have a variety of traits, so some notable matches are inevitable.

This is the widely cited “confirmation biasLinks to an external site.” at work. To say “Jody is a Libra” is to state an implicit hypothesis that Jody has the traits of a Libra. The mind will then automatically examine that hypothesis by looking for evidence that it’s true — by finding links between the characteristics of Jody and the traits thought to characterize Libras. Again, because there is a lot that can be said about both Jody and Libras, overlapping characteristics are rarely hard to find.

Sometimes, of course, people actively want to believe astrological claims and therefore look extra hard to find these links. In those cases, the confirmation bias is especially pronounced.

But this bias rears its head even when a person has no motivational stake in whether astrology is valid or not. Suppose someone gives you some primroses for your garden and says, “I think they need a lot of watering, but you should test that out.” How would you do so? Chances are you would water them a lot and see how they do. What you probably wouldn’t do is give half of them a lot of water and the other half much less in order to examine evidence both consistent and inconsistent with the hypothesis.

Critical thinking is all about conducting these more balanced inquiries. Without them, we believe in all sorts of things that aren’t true.

Lecture: Confirmation Bias

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