Have you ever made a hasty, confident decision that later proved to be a mistake? If you answered yes, you were most likely impacted by ‘Cognitive-Bias’. It is the tendency to make irrational decisions or actions without realizing it. Cognitive-Bias can be differentiated on several dimensions. In this article, we’ll examine one common dimension; ‘Confirmation-Bias’ and learn how to avoid it and help you make more objective decisions.

Confirmation-Bias occurs when an individual rejects or ignores anything that contradicts their existing ideas and seeks out resources that supports them. As a result, such people are prone to making biased judgements since they don’t consider anything other than what they prefer. Such individuals frequently seek out information that confirms their beliefs and viewpoints, while rejecting any new knowledge that denies them. In other words, they look for evidence that supports their perspective and dismiss evidence that contradicts it. Ego and self-esteem also play an important role in confirmation bias. After all, no one likes to admit that they were so ignorant as to believe in something wrong for a long time.

Examples of Confirmation-bias: This could be anything like the earth is flat or the moon is made of cheese. A heavy smoker, for example, may stumble across a study claiming that smoking causes lung cancer. Nonetheless, they dismiss it, claiming that the study is inaccurate. If in case they later discovered another study claiming that smoking can cure lung cancer, they would claim that this study is correct, confirming their conviction that smoking has no harmful effects.

Impact of Confirmation Bias: Individuals with confirmation bias operate in an echo chamber, limiting their ability to think outside the box. It makes it harder for people to understand thoughts or beliefs that differ from their own. As a result, it may limit their ability to innovate and flourish as a society.  On a personal level, it might block job advancement if employees are unable to adjust to new contexts. Employees can progress, expand their knowledge, and become more rounded individuals only by challenging their present thoughts and beliefs.

Confirmation Bias and social media: The quick spread of fake news, or false and misleading material presented as legitimate news from an apparently authoritative source, has been aided by the growth of social media. We’ve all seen people who tend to ‘share’ information or news articles that confirm their pre-existing ideas. Catchy headlines are sometimes used to draw attention to unsubstantiated allegations. There are news articles that profess to include ‘facts,’ but are actually skewed opinions that mirror the reader’s own. As a result, unconfirmed claims that are unsupported by evidence are seen as ‘factual’ merely because they correspond to current views. As a result, such information spreads across platforms, gaining traction as it supports millions of people’s already held ideas.

The usage of ‘filter bubbles,’ or ‘algorithmic editing,’ in social media significantly increases confirmation bias. End users are often unaware that they are shown promoted contents that they are highly likely to agree with, while opposing viewpoints are excluded. Today, the first question we are asked when we visit a website is whether we want to accept online cookies. Filter bubble is a state of mental isolation caused by personalized searches, in which a website or platform selectively guesses what type of information an individual would like to see based on data and cookies about them, such as location, past click-behaviour, and search history. As a result, users are essentially isolated in their own ideological bubbles, cut off from information that contradicts their perspectives. The choices taken by these algorithms are generally unclear. Google’s tailored search results and Facebook’s customized news-stream are two excellent examples for these.

The above points strongly suggest that modern society will never be free of filter bubbles due to confirmation bias and the reality that people are psychologically programmed to seek information that confirms their pre-existing values and opinions. Individuals’ ability to make fully informed decisions will increasingly decline unless filter bubble algorithms are removed in the near future, which is a difficult thing to do. This is also the main reason why critical thinking skills are becoming less widespread, especially due to confirmation bias.

Managing Confirmation Bias: The first step in avoiding confirmation bias is to acknowledge that it exists. We can only begin to address it if we are aware of when it occurs. To avoid confirmation bias, we must consider alternative viewpoints and listen to the opposing side of the argument with an open mind. It’s also crucial to surround ourselves with people who hold opposing viewpoints, even if it makes us uncomfortable. Only then will our preconceived notions be tested. We must, however, recognize that we do not necessarily know everything. As a result, any new information is new knowledge that can aid our understanding of the world. Having said that, the simplest method to avoid confirmation bias is to recognize that we cannot know everything. We are merely humans, and we can only access a finite quantity of information at any given time. As a result, it’s only natural that our perspectives evolve throughout time. Only by becoming open to change and new ideas will we be able to overcome confirmation bias.

To summarize, we all suffer from confirmation bias to some degree. Even if we believe we are really open-minded and merely look at the facts before drawing conclusions, we are highly likely to have some prejudice in the end. Combating this innate tendency is quite difficult. That said, if we understand confirmation bias and accept that it exists, we can work to notice it by cultivating an interest in opposing viewpoints and paying attention to what others have to say and why they say it. This can help us see challenges and beliefs from a different perspective, albeit we must remain vigilant in avoiding confirmation bias.