Confirmation bias is a type of cognitive bias which causes people to favor evidence that confirms their pre-existing beliefs over evidence that would tend to disprove it. This often occurs subconsciously, and the individual doesn't realize it has happened. Some examples would be:
- God answers prayers - A person remembers each time a prayer appears to have been answered, and dismiss any times it hasn't, often with the excuse, "God always answers prayer - sometimes, he says no".
The primary problem with confirmation bias is that it leads to people having warped or "filtered" understandings of the world around them. This can support various erroneous beliefs they may have.
"Early impressions are hard to eradicate from the mind. When once wool has been dyed purple, who can restore it to its previous whiteness?"
Friedrich Nietzsche argued that confirmation bias was based on finding psychologically comforting explanations.
- "[We] identify as a cause something already familiar or experienced, something already inscribed in memory. Whatever is novel or strange or never before experienced is excluded. Thus one searches not just for any explanation to serve as a cause, but for a specific and preferred type of explanation: that which has most quickly and most frequently abolished the feeling of the strange, new, and hitherto unexperienced in the past — our most habitual explanations. Result: one type of causal explanation predominates more and more, is concentrated into a system and finally emerges as dominant — that is, as simply precluding other causes and explanations. The banker immediately thinks of 'business,' the Christian of 'sin,' and the girl of her love. "
Other explanations of confirmation bias including saving on mental effort and wishful thinking.
- ↑ Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 1895