Confirmation bias is when we choose the information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs or ideas while ignoring solid evidence to the contrary. It is pronounced when we have ideological or emotionally charged views.
How Confirmation Bias clouds our judgement
Decision making is a process where you choose from several alternatives to meet your goals or objectives. In decision making, you identify your goals, gather information for evaluating your options, consider the consequences of each option with evidence gathered and make your decision.
It is in gathering and interpreting the evidence that confirmation bias comes into play. Allowing ourselves to interpret information in a biased way can result in serious misjudgements and stifle creativity in decision making. We end up making decisions that are riddled with mistakes. When we understand this, it can help us identify it within ourselves.
Looking out for confirmation bias is also important while working in a team. A need to enforce your ideas, ‘my way or the highway’ will result in a breakdown of relationships, a failure to build agreement and influence collective decision-making.
Why do we fall prey to Confirmation Bias?
Confirmation bias is a kind of cognitive shortcut. Making cognitive shortcuts is understandable. It takes a lot of mental energy to assess evidence, especially when it is complex. Our brain favours taking shortcuts especially when we are under pressure. However, we need to understand that we should take time to examine assumptions and check the validity of our evidence. We should also seek out evidence that challenges what we have or we risk the pitfalls of confirmatory bias. That is something we should be aware of when we are making decisions.
How to Avoid Confirmation Bias
- Recognise that all of us are prone to it (the brain loves to take shortcuts).
- Seek out views that are different from yours and be open to hearing them.
- Do not make hasty decisions, give yourself time to process all the information you have. Except in an emergency.
- Ask yourself what would happen if you do the opposite of what you would normally do
- Be on the lookout for evidence that challenges the evidence you already have.
Being cognizant of confirmation bias is not easy but with practice, it gets easier to identify when you are on that path