Confirmation bias leads us to accept a claim uncritically because we want it to be true, even if the evidence behind it is flimsy. In the cold light of day, we know to check the facts, that a single story might be handpicked, and that correlation is not causation. But confirmation bias means that we don’t look at evidence in the cold light of day, but are blinded to the truth.
Confirmation bias leads us to make up excuses to dismiss facts we don’t like. If our favourite politician gets elected and the economy tanks, we’d argue it would have done worse had she not been in charge. Or we’d protest that we need to wait another year before we can truly evaluate her performance.
16 Dec 2023 | A statement is not fact,Confirmation bias,Data is not evidence,Evidence is not proof
My LinkedIn feed came alive with this post:
Francesca Gino is the Harvard Business School professor accused of faking data in her research. HBS is conducting an investigation into the matter and I am reserving judgement until its outcome; this post is on something completely different. My ...
‘Go with your gut’, ‘Follow your first impression’, ‘Obey your hunches’. We frequently hear this advice, and Malcolm Gladwell wrote a successful book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, on the value of heeding your instincts.
A wealth of evidence demonstrates how people suffer from confirmation bias, but most of it is on ordinary people. Surely intelligence is a cure? Smarter cookies might better appreciate the logic in a counterargument, and notice defects in data even if supports their viewpoint.
25 Nov 2023 | A fact is not data,A statement is not fact,Confirmation bias
Last week, Harvard Business Review published an article entitled "Research: How Women Improve Decision-Making on Boards". It was widely shared on LinkedIn and someone tagged me in it, given my research on diversity, equity, and inclusion. When I became Managing Editor of the Review of Finance, I appointed the first women to its board of editors in our 20-year history, so I'd like to believe the findings. However, it's important not to take claims at face value, particularly when ...
The first step in overcoming confirmation bias is to check the facts, even if you’re tempted to take them at face value. But doing so is not always straightforward. My TED talk opened with how Belle Gibson claimed to have beaten cancer through diet. Since Belle’s medical records are private, the person on the street can’t easily check this claim.
Some forms of confirmation bias occur when there’s little quantifiable at stake. If Republicans watch Fox News and Democrats are glued to MSNBC, their knowledge of the world will be less rich, but they don’t suffer any tangible loss. You’d hope that, if there’s money on the table, people might bite the bullet and overcome their biases.