September  2021     Edition 158
Critical Thinking about Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is

the tendency to notice, focus on, and provide greater credence to evidence that fits our existing assumptions and beliefs.  We do this both consciously and unconsciously.

 

For example: 

Hiring in the workplace can have Confirmation Bias that can lead to a bad mistake.  You might look at someone
s resume and based on the college or degree listed might immediately conclude that they would be a good fit.  I
ve heard statements like,
I only want to see resumes from people who have graduated from
.    

 

We hear generalizations about people who grow up in different geographic locations.   So one day, you
re going to meet someone from a particular geographic location and not only do you expect them to act the way the stereotype is, but if they say one thing that even comes close to fitting the stereotype, your reaction is
Yup, they
re from ..
.

 

Our political and social avenue of communications is filled, like over the top filled, with Confirmation Bias

.   Think about the news and social media channels you view, or the politicians you listen to.  You tend to listen to those who confirm what you are already thinking about.   This confirmation results in a stronger view that you
re thinking is correct.  We tend to look for evidence that supports our position and discount evidence that contradicts that position.   We like to be right.

 

People have been wrongly convicted of crimes because of Confirmation Bias.  We often don
t even realize we
re in the middle of a Confirmation Bias activity. 

 

There
s a world of psychology literature on Confirmation Bias, so I won
t repeat what
s out there.  Search on Confirmation Bias and just start reading.

 

With Critical Thinking we can minimize Confirmation Bias by asking these questions:

  • What assumptions am I already making about this situation, and why am I making those assumptions?
  • What if my assumptions are not right in this situation?
  • Is it possible I can be mistaken about this situation?
  • What if my experiences are not all encompassing related to this situation?  Where can I get other experiences or talk with those who have other experiences?
  • What if the information I
    m using to make my assumption is not accurate?
  • Is it possible that what I
    m listening to, measuring, experiencing might just be a slice of a picture that from another perspective might be viewed or interpreted differently?
  • What other information sources might be valid and reasonable, and why am I not getting input from that source?   Is it possible that my assumptions about valid and reasonable sources might in fact be skewed by my Confirmation Bias?

 

The Takeaway:  
Everyone has Confirmation Bias and it
s nearly impossible to eliminate it.  Knowing this, ask critical thinking questions to discover what that bias is, why it is that way, and how you can compensate for it.
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Next Critical Thinking Open Enrollment   One day workshop in two half days, Nov 9 and 10

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