Confirmation bias is the very human tendency interpret, judge, or even filter out incoming information and data based on how you already understand the person, topic, or concept. It means that we look for evidence that supports what we believe, we dismiss new data that challenges or doesn’t fit those beliefs, and we assign meaning that aligns with our current beliefs.

As you can imagine, confirmation bias is central to successful analytics because we have to understand, interpret, and act on data to make any change happen – and we do so as humans, with all our faults and strengths. Confirmation bias is baked into how we operate, because it would be paralyzing if we truly viewed each and every single piece of incoming information as 100% new and equal to all our existing knowledge and beliefs. But confirmation bias has a dark side, and we explore that dark side in this conversation with a very special guest.

Dr. Rick Kamins, PhD

Dr. Rick Kamins is a retired clinical psychologist. After serving as a therapist seeing patients, he worked for many years as the Chief Clinical Officer for a large managed health care company. Today he still teaches an award-winning class for psychology interns on “Outcome Oriented Psychotherapy.”

“If you had to treat a new situation as brand new and couldn’t use your previous experience and pre-existing beliefs to decide if it was good or bad, helpful or harmful, friend or foe, you would spend a lot of time investigating the situation and by that time it might be too late to find the reward or avoid the bad.”

CONFIRMATION BIAS is the tendency of people not only to interpret, but remember, and specifically seek out information that confirms beliefs they already have, and ignore information that disconfirms those beliefs. As result, because of Confirmation Bias you engage in the following behaviors: 

  • You look for evidence that backs up your existing beliefs
  • You reject or ignore contradictory information that disconfirms those beliefs
  • You misinterpret or cherry pick information to reinforce what you already believe
  • You seek out other people who have your same beliefs
  • You try to convince others that what you believe is true
  • Confirmation bias even affects your memory. You not only have selective hearing, but will have a tendency to remember only those things that reinforce a belief you have.
  • And you might even claim and believe that those with opposing views have ulterior motives

“Confirmation bias is inevitable and we all do it. We can minimize it but never eliminate it.”

How can you reduce the damage that confirmation bias causes?

  • Remember that your mental map is not identical to the real territory of reality.
  • Be humble. You aren’t perfect, and that’s okay.
  • You are not your beliefs. Changing your beliefs doesn’t invalidate who you are.
  • Try consciously to DISPROVE a belief rather than unconsciously always trying to support or prove them. This is even more important when it’s something that you feel strongly about.
An Action For You
An Action For You

The next time you share an opinion or belief, ask yourself, “What data or information would change my mind on this?” If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can then look for that information 😉 But just stopping and thinking about what you would accept to update your belief will make you more open to hearing that kind of information.


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