Friday, 11 August 2017

Confirmation bias

In my reading during the day, I came across this phrase 'Confirmation bias' meaning, actively looking for things that help your argument and dismissing things that don't.

This is a tendency we find in everyone.  It is often the same bias that prevents us from admitting that we were wrong.  But there is another side of this as well.  Far from acknowledging mistake or error, we go to great lengths to devise strategies that affirm an outright error.  The author of the book Being Wrong, Kathryn Schulz points out five responses people offer to defend their mistake rather than admit them:

  1. time-frame defence: just got the calculations a bit mixed up... but not wrong.
  2. near-miss defence: it almost happened as I said it would 
  3. out-of-left defence: it was almost going to happen as I said, but for that unexpected incident...
  4. I was wrong, but it is your fault: not my doing... if I hadn't listened to your advice, it would have been as I said
  5. better-safe-than-sorry defence: thinking and doing what I did, it would have been wrong for me to act otherwise... 

In all these there is a sort of 'mental accommodation' into which we ease ourselves to justify that what we think, hold, and believe is right, even if we know it is wrong!

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