Confirmation Bias

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Jonathan Church:

"Confirmation bias is a cognitive tendency to find what one is looking for even when it is not there. It is to assess a situation or conflict through the lens of a biased perspective. One takes into account information that supports one’s preconceptions while discounting or ignoring information that runs counter to narratives associated with one’s preconceptions. According to Shahram Heshmat on Psychology Today, confirmation bias “leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true.” If, for example, a man compliments a woman for wearing a pretty dress at work, the woman may misconstrue the intent of the compliment as an unwarranted advance rather than innocent small talk meant to “break the ice” of a social encounter. This is not to dismiss the possibility that a compliment may turn out to be an unwanted advance, nor to ignore the instances in which a woman does not misconstrue the intent of a compliment. Rather, it is be alert to the possibility that a recipient of a compliment may be inclined to see a compliment for more than what it often is.

At the heart of confirmation bias, like other cognitive and emotional biases (such as availability bias, according to which recent newsworthy events seem more probable than they are simply they can be recalled more easily, a bias that can frame the interpretation of subsequent experiences in a way that does not do justice to the unique merits of an experience that has its own context and content), is irrationality. Though capable of rational thought, humans are fundamentally irrational in many areas of life, however much they cling to a stubborn belief in their own objectivity, and despite the simplifying assumptions of “rational economic man” in classical economic theory. This claim is not necessarily lobbed as an insult. It is stating a fact. One hopes it will motivate individuals to be on guard against the pitfalls of irrationality, rather than trigger an emotional backlash that stems from hurt feelings." (