Posted by: csdivakar | September 14, 2013

Confirmatory Bias and Me…

On September 5 (Teachers Day) , am blessed to meet Sukumar Rajagopal (  with a problem where am facing for a long time in my life. After I shared the problem, he listened with empathy and responded calmly as ‘Confirmatory Bias!’.

What is Confirmatory Bias?

Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses.People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. They also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position.

Confirmation Bias is the tendency that influences all of us to put more faith in information that agrees with what we already believe, and discount opinions and data that disagree with our beliefs.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb author of “The Black Swan” explains beautifully in his book. In chapter 5 ( Confirmation Shmonfirmation ), he confirms by “ Cognitive Scientists have studied our mental tendency to look only for corroboration; they call this vulnerability to the corroboration error the Confirmation Bias

Examples :-

Before the discovery of Australia, everyone convinced that all swans where white, an unassailable belief as it seemed completely confirmed by empirical evidence.

A person will believe that if he invest money in Gold can yield more profit and find reasons for his argument by sharing the Gold Price Range from 1990 to 2013, “ how the gold price has shoot high and believing that other investments won’t yield money and over-confident about the investing in gold.

In organisations, we always try to make and validate the data( Vanity Metrics ) based on our belief and taking decisions through Surveys.

I was recently questioned by one of my colleague on “My Comment on Dress Smart in The Zone Blog” and am able to interrelate his conversation on his Confirmatory Bias by sharing me that productivity, culture may get affected because of his evidences by comparing the factory culture and started justifying the points how westernization is affecting the Indian culture.

Strategies for overcoming Confirmatory Bias…

Seek information that can falsify your beliefs

  • Helps you avoid the confirmation bias as you seek new information

Ask questions that lead to concrete answers

  • Helps you avoid the confirmation bias in interpreting information

Avoid conveying your beliefs and intentions when asking questions to your teammate or to consumers

  • Helps you prevent the confirmation bias in others

Few References on Confirmatory Bias to know more…

How Warren Buffett Avoids Getting Trapped by Confirmation Bias” – Excellent Article

Book Recommendation : The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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