Friday, May 8, 2009

Join The Fight Against Confirmation Bias

Cigar Shaped UFO not

Confirmation Bias is probably my most favorite logical fallacy. I'm not sure that "favorite" is the right word but confirmation bias sure seems to be the most common logical fallacy that I see. I witness beliefs based on confirmation bias everyday in the media and in casual conversation. It took me 40 years before I learned about confirmation bias. Why is this not taught in grade school? I thank critical thinkers such as Carl Sagan, Steven Novella and James Randi for enlightening me on this important topic.

The world will be a better place if we could eliminate confirmation bias, so I created a Facebook group to help promote the fight against confirmation bias. (I know it's lame to expect to change the world with a Facebook group...kinda funny though...) My hope is that people will share their experiences and some tactics on how to avoid confirmation bias. Here is a snippet from the group:

The Skeptic's Dictionary defines confirmation bias as: "...a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one's beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's beliefs."

Common topics where people use confirmation bias to justify their belief (in no particular order):

1. Prayer 2. CAM (complimentary alternative medicine) 3. Lunar effects 4. Politics 5. Love 6. Hate 7. "Paranormal" phenomena 8. Conspiracy theories 9. Gambling 10. Business 11...

More from the Skeptic's Dictionary: "For example, if you believe that during a full moon there is an increase in admissions to the emergency room where you work, you will take notice of admissions during a full moon, but be inattentive to the moon when admissions occur during other nights of the month. A tendency to do this over time unjustifiably strengthens your belief in the relationship between the full moon and accidents and other lunar effects."

Join The Fight Against Confirmation Bias

4 comments:

  1. Technically it's a cognitive bias, not a logical fallacy. But I'd be glad to join the fight against it.

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  2. @Jeffrey: Interesting. Thanks for the comment.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are fighting a property of the human condition. As such, I will not be joining your group, since the goal is misdirected.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Tony: Not sure what you mean. There are lots of "human conditions" that we should strive to reduce or overcome, in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete

Be critical. Be nice.

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