Human beings express a ton of biases in their interactions. Examples of biases are: status quo bias, confirmation bias, authority bias, expectation bias, unconscious bias/implicit bias, automation bias, backfire effect, Google effect, and the halo effect. In this article, we’ll discuss confirmation bias and some examples.
Confirmation bias is a cognitive bias that people use to reinforce personal beliefs. In this bias, people seek information that confirms their preexisting beliefs and disregard any contrary evidence. There are three main types of confirmation biases: Biased information search, biased information interpretation, and biased information recall.
Biased Information Search
In this bias type, people only seek information that supports their existing beliefs. It’s natural for people to talk to those who already agree with them and use the Internet to find data that validates their existing beliefs. People will put down any disconfirming evidence that threatens their beliefs.
Biased Information Interpretation
There is also the bias type of information interpretation. This one involves people’s tendency to interpret new evidence and data to confirm their previous beliefs. In interpretation bias, people will acknowledge data that confirms their beliefs while they’ll dismiss or reinterpret any data that disconfirms it.
Biased Information Recall
People tend to selectively forget information if it disregards or challenges their beliefs and recall information if it confirms their beliefs. If one is aware of their belief bias, they can easily avoid this type.
There are many examples of confirmation bias in everyday life that people ignore or fail to recognize.
Examples of Confirmation Bias Scenarios
1. Hiring process
In an organization, hiring managers tend to hire those who share the same opinions and ideas. Such biases happen because hiring managers want to be comfortable with people with similar views and ideas. This hiring decision is not the best way to get the best person since it’s based on personal opinions and not necessarily competence.
Another example of bias in the hiring process is when men are preferred over women for complex tasks. Some people believe that women will only thrive where there’re automated systems and not anything mechanical.
2. Political favoritism
This bias happens in politics, where people tend to vote for candidates that will likely win instead of choosing the best candidate. This bias has caused many special interest groups and lobbyists to get what they want even though the material doesn’t benefit the people.
Some elected leaders have extremely negative traits, but voters choose to ignore the bad because the said leaders are most likely to win.
3. False memory effect
Another example is the false memory effect, where people remember things that didn’t actually happen. For instance, some employees may remember getting a raise, even though they didn’t.
It might be that the employees had a good year and assumed they got a raise, or they heard about more people getting raises and believed they did too. Also, if the employees wanted the pay to rise so much, they’ll look for false evidence to confirm their false beliefs.
4. Medical errors
Confirmation bias has been found in medical settings. Some doctors are looking for information that fits their diagnosis instead of exploring all possibilities.
Ideally, the diagnosis should be objectively made after all the factors have been considered. Medical experts aware of their confirmation bias try to avoid it by looking at all possible diagnoses.
5. Financial errors
Confirmation bias is prevalent in financial institutions where people tend to stay with their current investments even if it’s not the best option. People do this because they don’t want to lose what they already have and fail to explore new options.
6. Employee performance evaluations
A study has found that managers and supervisors tend to rate those who agree with them as having better performance than those who don’t.
This bias happens when supervisors fear that loyal employees might leave the organization if they get low scores. When such employees leave, the managers will have to deal with those who have opposing views.
7. Social media and social networking
People tend to share and like content that reflects their views and opinions in social media and social interactions. This bias happens because people want to be associated with those who share the same beliefs and ideas. Such biases are responsible for peer pressure since humans have a strong desire to belong and remain agreeable.
8. Political debates
During election periods, politicians tell the people what appeals to their senses. If people believe that a certain politician is suitable for a particular position, the people will ignore all the red flags. People amplify certain characteristics that make this politician acceptable. Other candidates may be better, but confirmation bias by the people leads to poor choice of leaders.
9. Violent relationships
One reason why people stay in abusive relationships is that they believe their abusive partners will change. The abused party is usually over-optimistic and only looks out for the positive cues that their partner will change for good.
Even when adequate evidence shows that the abusive partner will never change, the abused party will still deny it. The other reason why people stay in abusive relationships is that they are afraid of being alone. If one leaves the relationship, confirmation bias makes it difficult to find a new partner.
10. Opinion leaders and the general public
In social media posts, opinion leaders tend to influence those who agree with their views and opinions. People tend to share the news that others would agree with them. Such biases happen because people tend to search for content that resonates or confirms their beliefs.
11. Self-fulfilling prophecy
Self-fulfilling prophecies happen when the expectations of a person lead to certain behavior that fulfills these expectations. This bias can be responsible for many things, such as success and failure in a sporting event.
It also affects how a student will perform in a class or whether a relationship will work. Self-fulfilling prophecies can lead to self-defeating behavior and anxiety because people attract what they believe.
12. Substance abuse
In substance abuse, sometimes a person abuses a certain drug or substance because it makes them feel better about themselves. Such biases happen because people don’t want to feel depressed, anxious, or low.
With substance abuse, the person feels confident and relaxed, so they keep abusing the drug. This addict has convinced themselves that the pros of abusing drugs are more than the cons, even though it’s false.
13. Workplace biases
In the workplace, confirmation biases happen when employees filter out certain information that conflicts with their views. When they encounter information that challenges their beliefs, people are more likely to investigate it if the topic is new. The investigation will aim to reinforce existing views.
These workplace biases may cost the organization, especially if customers are involved. For example, if customers give negative feedback, employees are more likely to believe that the customers are wrong. This is because the latter don’t want to think about how their mistakes might have caused the negative feedback.
14. Worldviews and religion
When it comes to religious norms, people often selectively remember information that confirms their worldview. However, if they are presented with contradictory information, people will reject it because it doesn’t support their beliefs.
Biased religion usually focuses on the good things in life. The ‘bad stuff’ is minimized or ignored. For example, if one reads about a morally difficult or ambiguous religious requirement, one is less likely to consider it.
15. Different eye witness testimonies
Two eyewitnesses can have different accounts of the same incident depending on their varied beliefs. For example, a feminist will report that a man attacked a woman while a male chauvinist will claim that he was defending himself.
16. Political behavior
When it comes to political standpoints, people are likely to engage in confirmation bias when faced with new information. They tend to accept information that agrees with their political stance and reject information that does not.
Sometimes, biased political behavior can lead to violence. For example, when the two warring parties believe that they are ‘right,’ violence continues.
17. Negotiation biases
In negotiations, people tend to ask questions that confirm what they already know about something. For example, if someone sells a car to another person, the buyer will ask questions that support their belief that the car has little mileage, even if this is not true.
18. Sports fans
Sports fans often engage in confirmation bias when watching games or matches. When their team is winning, fans will selectively remember information that supports their team while forgetting information that does not support it.
Also, the winning team will praise their coach even when he has obvious shortcomings. The coach’s flaws are overlooked for the period that the team wins.
19. Overconfident people
Overconfident people tend always to answer questions that support their predictions. They ask fewer probing questions than those who are not as confident.
Overconfident people can’t stand others challenging their views because of the belief that they know it all. Their conversations are always leaning towards a particular direction without paying attention to other people.
20. Dating biases
When it comes to dating, men are more likely to engage in confirmation bias because they want to approach women they find attractive. When faced with someone they are interested in, men will pay little attention to their flaws and want them for themselves.
21. Confirmation of stereotypes
When it comes to stereotypes, people are more likely to remember the information consistent with their beliefs. If someone is prejudiced towards Muslims, they will pay little attention to the good things they do and concentrate on what divides them.
22. Visual perception biases
In terms of visual perception, people tend only to remember what they need in a picture. For example, if someone is asked to describe a house, the individual will pay attention to the relevant details.
23. Psychologists’ biases
The field of psychology is rife with confirmation bias when psychologists conduct experiments. This is because psychologists are inclined towards accepting results that support their beliefs. If they accept the results, they continue with their experiments and ignore information that challenges it.
24. Political canvassing
Political canvassers are likely to seek out yes voters. They will not ask questions that challenge voters’ political views because they might get negative reactions, yet they only want the positive ones.
25. Evolution deniers
Evolution deniers are biased against information that supports Darwin’s theory of evolution. It is because they have a preexisting view that it is wrong. Therefore, they cannot give it a fair hearing because they cannot accept new ways of thinking that contradict their beliefs.
26. Conspiracy theorists
Conspiracy theorists, like evolution deniers, cannot give information that casts doubt on their beliefs and theories a fair hearing. They can’t stand contrary information that doesn’t support their opinions. Conspiracy theorists channel all their energies into proving their theories, even if it means ignoring other information.
27. Political observers
When it comes to politics, political observers are likely to engage in selective listening, especially when emotionally vested. When listening to political speeches, they are more likely to remember the things that support their views while ignoring other details.
28. Positive thinkers
Positive thinkers are likely to engage in confirmation bias because they tend only to see the good things surrounding them. They discount negative experiences and concentrate on the good ones. They are constantly looking for something positive to think about.
29. Dog haters
Dog haters are biased towards dogs because they only see the bad things that surround them. They attach negative images to dogs and refuse to accept anything good. This is because they have a preexisting view that dogs are bad and can’t be changed no matter what.
For example, if someone hits a dog and bites them, a dog hater will call the dog a dangerous animal. Given the same scenario, a dog lover will say that the dog acted in self-defense and otherwise a sweet companion.
30. Fake news propagation
People share and propagate fake news on Social Media and other news sources. Confirmation biases are to blame for fake news propagation. Sharing fake bad news is a way of one individual trying to convince others that the news subject is indeed guilty.
If the news is good but fake, sharing them makes people believe a false narrative that the subject is better than they actually are. Whether the fake news is good or bad, propagating it is a result of a confirmation bias.
Stereotypes fuel racism. If a particular race is labeled negatively, all people in that race will carry the tag whether they are guilty or not. For example: If one white kid and another black kid are found at a crime scene, white police are likely to look for evidence that incriminates the black boy.
In some situations, confirmation biases make people see only the evidence that proves their views. This bias is less likely to happen when a person’s culture or race isn’t involved in the issue.
32. Perception of physical attractiveness
People perceive beautiful people as more trustworthy, competent, and friendly. Someone who doesn’t fall in the beautiful category will struggle for attention and approval even when doing better in certain aspects.
If something bad happens, biased people will blame the person they perceive as less beautiful even if the latter is innocent. Such biases portray certain people in a negative light even when they don’t deserve it.
33. Media coverage
Studies have shown that the media tends to give extensive coverage to violent events and accidents involving people from ethnic and racial minorities. This is another form of confirmation bias where the media reports only negative things that happen to certain groups.
The media has a significant impact on society and people’s perceptions of certain events. People who get their news from the media are more likely to develop an inaccurate understanding of certain issues.
34. Church attendance and votes
People who attend religious services are more likely to vote for conservative political candidates. The absence of people from church could be because they are not interested in politics or their beliefs do not align with conservative views.
Confirmation biases make people like and vote for candidates because of their religious affiliation. Some less religious people would make better leaders, but they aren’t given a chance.
35. Sports fandom
A sports fan is likely to choose news sources that confirm their views about the team. This is why the same team will have different fans with very different opinions about them.
People are often biased towards their favorite sports teams without even realizing it. This is because the sports teams they support are dear to them, and no one will report bad news about their favorite team.
36. Inter-racial dating
People of a certain race can be prejudiced and discriminate against those of another different race. For example, a white person might feel that an Asian person is inferior and won’t make a good partner.
In inter-racial dating, people tend to marry people of the same race. Prejudiced people will only go for people of the same race because they believe they can’t get along with another race.
37. Jury’s verdict
When it comes to juries, the verdict is based on whether the defense or prosecution convinces jurors. They are more likely to believe the prosecution witnesses simply because they are prosecuting.
A juror might claim that he believes in the defendant’s innocence because they are innocent until proven guilty. This belief stems from confirmation bias, which is against the nature of juries that represent justice.
38. Faith healing
In faith healing, people tend to selectively remember the incidences where a miracle happened but forget those where it didn’t. They might remember incidents where they were cured of an illness when the pastor prayed for them but ignore the times when they didn’t get better even after prayer.
People are more likely to believe in faith healing because of confirmation bias. They remember when it works but conveniently forget when it doesn’t.
39. Psychic Abilities
People will believe in psychic abilities and pay psychics even when they have been conned. They trust anything a psychic says because their inner voice tells them that the psychic is telling the truth.
Belief in psychic abilities stems from confirmation bias because people selectively remember positive information that confirms their belief in psychics.
40. Bad Nutrition
People ignorant about nutrition tend to selectively remember the times when they ate unhealthy foods but conveniently forget when they ate healthy ones. They ignore the negative effects of eating unhealthy food and focus on the good times.
People tend to eat unhealthy food because it tastes better. They are ignorant of the effects of over-eating unhealthy food and are more likely to engage in behaviors that lead them to become obese.
41. Biblical narratives, e.g., The Flood of Noah
Those who believe in the story of the flood of Noah tend to selectively remember when God displayed his power and conveniently forget when he did nothing. They believe that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and merciful, but they ignore that God doesn’t correct the problem of evil.
Such biased people selectively remember stories and forget when they don’t match the biblical narrative. They choose to believe in God’s omnipotence without looking at it critically.
42. Bad politicians
People who support a certain politician will selectively remember when he does something good and conveniently forgets all the bad things. Believers in a politician tend to discredit any piece of news about him that is negative.
These believers are more likely to believe him even when he commits awful crimes because of confirmation bias. They are not open to any other information that can disprove their belief.
People are willing to kill other people because of confirmation bias for their leader. They do not believe that evil exists or that their leader can do something bad.
43. Smoking addiction
Smokers tend to selectively remember the positive effects of cigarettes but conveniently forget when they do nothing. People addicted to cigarettes are more likely to engage in smoking even though they are aware of the negative effects.
They ignore the health risks associated with smoking and focus on the positive aspects of smoking. They believe that smoking is beneficial to their health even though it isn’t because they selectively remember the information that supports their decision to smoke.
Believers in astrology tend to remember the times when their horoscope was true and conveniently forget all of the wrong things stated in their horoscope. They believe that astrology is real and that horoscopes reflect their personality accurately.
They choose to remember the accurate information and conveniently forget the incorrect predictions because of confirmation bias. They choose to believe their horoscope and ignore all the mistakes because it is only natural for people to hold on tightly to what they believe.
45. Search Engines activities
One of the ways that search engines gather information is by recording what people search. They also use this same activity to improve their services by understanding the interests of users.
People are more likely to click on advertisements that reflect the keywords they searched.
Also, internet users are more likely to search for things they believe in and not those they disapprove of. They don’t question the information they find online as long as it appeals to them. Also, the searchers choose to remember the information that supports their beliefs and forget the rest.
46. Hypothesis testing bias
Scientists use several methods when they conduct research. They come up with different hypotheses and then start searching for information that can support their hypothesis.
Scientists search for information that supports their hypothesis. This is because they are not open to thinking about any aspect of the research that can make their hypothesis wrong.
47. Emotional abuse
People who endure emotional abuse usually suffer from information interpretation bias. The abuser was something offensive, but the abused chooses to interpret the information differently.
In such cases, the victim holds onto the hope that the abuser didn’t mean to hurt. This way, their interpretations are biased hence justifying the abuser’s remarks even when they’re outright mean.
49. Gender roles
People usually believe in gender roles because they are selective with the information they get. They only focus on the positive things about their roles and conveniently forget the negative elements.
Biased society believes that men are better suited for being the providers while women are better at raising children. A woman striving for financial independence may be criticized for doing so at the expense of her family. Her efforts are biasedly interpreted, yet all she wants is a better life for her family, just like the man.
50. Marriage and Divorce
A couple that’s considering divorce tends to focus on all the negative aspects of their relationship. These biases are meant to justify their need for divorce, and they shun any positive energy in their relationship.
A happy couple will only look at the positive energy in their relationship and conveniently forget all the negative aspects of their marriage. They will focus on the things they love about each other and ignore everything else.
51. John vs. Mary
Confirmation bias, also known as myside bias, is seen in issues where people have a strong opinion. When two people argue, each one is selective with their information because they want to justify their position.
A person defending the argument that men are better at being CEO will only focus on male CEOs while conveniently forgetting all female CEOs in the world.
On the other hand, a person defending the argument that women are better at being CEO will only focus on female CEOs while conveniently forgetting all the male CEOs in the world. Their memories are selective because everything they say will be to justify their position.
What Can People do to Avoid Confirmation Bias?
- People should be aware of their own biases and fight them by seeking out information from different sources.
- When it comes to making decisions, people shouldn’t base their decisions on personal desires but consider data from various sources.
- They should be open to other people’s opinions and thoughts, even if they disagree with them. Open-mindedness will minimize conflict in relationships.
- When reading the news, people should check several sources to ensure that their reading is accurate.
- As it is, confirmation biases are learned at a young age and are hard to change. They are rooted in people’s core values that are formed when they are young. For this reason, parents need to be watchful of the information they communicate towards children because these may form their biases later on in life.
- People need to remain positive and focus on the good things that happen to them. They should not dwell on negative situations because these will only cause them unnecessary pain.
The Effects of Confirmation Bias on Human Interactions
Below are some negative outcomes associated with confirmation biases:
- In the case where one gender or group receives preferential treatment over the other, conflict is unavoidable.
- Confirmation bias makes people forget the bad things about themselves and concentrate on what’s good. They may even lose touch with their true selves because they are falling into the trap of self-deception.
- Confirmation bias causes people to think that they’re always right and to ignore other possibilities. It may also cause some people to have a false sense of superiority.
- Confirmation biases that involve leadership can affect the future negatively when people choose bad leaders.
- Implicit biases fuel stereotypes that, in turn, determine how certain groups are treated. Most of the time, stereotypes are negative.
- Confirmation bias affects people’s thinking by believing that their opinions are more important than others’ opinions.
- These biases make people closed-minded and unable to learn and grow since they selectively seek knowledge.
- Incorrect medical diagnoses lead to higher patient mortality, longer hospital stays, and increased healthcare costs in medical practices.
These biases can lead to self-defeating behavior and anxiety. It leads people to become less open-minded and ignore useful information. It can also lead to poor academic performance, workplace discrimination, and lack of progress in society.
Confirmation bias is fueled by past events, brain activity, and systematic errors that influence our actions and cause a negative outcome. It is to blame for the bad decisions that people make to continue having what they believe. People choose to remember the things that support their decision to continue smoking, eating unhealthy food, or believing in astrology.
People ignore all negative things that happen because of their decisions and focus on the positive things that support their beliefs. Confirmation biases keep their victims in cocoons that they cannot escape unless they commit themselves to breaking these biases.