What Is Confirmation Bias? (With Types And How To Avoid)

Updated 7 September 2023

Confirmation bias is frequent in the workplace and can influence your beliefs and decisions. In your professional life, confirmation bias might reduce workplace opportunities and create a negative work environment. Understanding everything about confirmation bias and how it might affect your professional career can help you overcome or avoid it. In this article, we answer ‘What is confirmation bias?', explain its types, learn why it occurs and outline the steps and tips for avoiding and managing bias in the workplace.

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What Is Confirmation Bias?

Knowing the answer to the question, ‘What is confirmation bias?' is essential to ensure it does not affect you in the workplace. Confirmation bias is a cognitive bias where you seek information that supports your assumptions and beliefs. You then use this information to prove yourself correct. During a confirmation bias, you might actively ignore or dismiss information that might challenge your initial belief or assumption. This type of bias affects how you receive and interpret information and how it can affect your professional life.

For instance, if a person believes that right-handed people are more creative than left-handed people, they find it difficult to believe that a friend is both left-handed and creative. These individuals are likely to emphasise evidence supporting their beliefs while ignoring or discounting examples that contradict them. This bias often leads to statistical errors, as it influences how people gather information and interpret it. By searching for information that supports your belief, you limit development and future opportunities.

Types Of Confirmation Bias

Here are a few types of confirmation bias:

Biased research

Biased research is a confirmation bias related to searching for information supporting your opinion or belief. This can happen unconsciously. In this research, you focus on questions that support your favoured hypothesis and ignore alternative hypotheses.

Related: Essential Research Skills (With Benefits And How To Improve)

Biased interpretation

This bias relates to how you interpret data and seek information supporting your hypothesis and opinion. It primarily focuses on information interpretation in a way that confirms the belief. Because of confirmation bias, you maintain your belief, even when presented with data that does not support it. This disparity in interpreting information explains why research cannot change people's opinions on issues.

Biased recall

In a biased recall, your recollection of past events gets skewed and the research results are inaccurate. This bias occurs when you selectively remember information that supports your views while forgetting and ignoring information that does not support your opinions. According to some theories, you can recall information that confirms prior belief because it gets stored in your memory while your mind quickly forgets or represses information that contradicts your belief.

Related: What Is A Research Associate? (And How To Become One)

Why Does Confirmation Bias Occur?

Confirmation bias can occur because of the following reasons:

  • Helps to process information: Confirmation bias helps you sort through a large amount of information you access daily. This makes it easier to process information.

  • Reduces mental conflicts: When people use confirmation bias, it reduces the risk of mental conflicts. Often, when confirmation bias occurs, it might lower the risk of negative emotions and stress.

  • Builds confidence: Confirmation bias occurs when seeking information to support your opinions. This helps in preserving self-esteem and makes you feel more confident.

How To Avoid Confirmation Bias?

Here are a few steps that can help you avoid confirmation bias:

1. Create a research plan

The first step in avoiding confirmation bias is planning and being aware of the potential bias in every part of the process. To know about the potential bias, assess the situation with team members, as different perspectives can help you determine a practical course of action. You can even ask questions about the process to remain neutral. Asking questions helps you understand the topic.

2. Test your hypothesis

The next step is determining assumptions about your hypothesis and understanding how you might show bias in future analysis. It is risky to presume that your assumptions are correct during your research. You can even research to clarify any additional information you require. To avoid confirmation bias, focus on:

  • Alternative bias: Focus on creating an alternative hypothesis for the research or study. An alternative hypothesis is useful when you encounter new and unforeseen information.

  • Question development: Ensure that your research questions maintain an objective point of view. When questions allow multiple types of answers, they can provide varied answers, reducing the chances of confirmation bias.

Related: What Is Inductive Reasoning? (With Types And Examples)

3. Allow yourself to be wrong

If you want to get closer to knowing the truth and avoiding confirmation bias, being able to admit you are wrong can be helpful. When you cannot admit defeat, it becomes challenging to make discoveries. You can avoid confirmation bias by being aware of your beliefs. This can happen only when you allow yourself to be wrong.

4. Be open to the views of others

The next step is being open to the views of others. Though you are not required to change your mind or beliefs, listening to others is essential. Getting different viewpoints while remaining neutral and unbiased is essential to avoid confirmation bias.

Related: What Are The Types Of Cognitive Bias? (With Definition)

5. Use reputable information sources

Actively research data and resources that support the views of others. Due to the huge amount of online information, you might hear false news and use misinformation that results in misconceptions. Often, many online articles do not cite sources before providing any information. In such a scenario, conducting additional research on the topic from reputable sources is beneficial. Focus on using information from established organisations that cite sources.

Related: Qualitative Research Interview Questions And Sample Answers

6. Record and review your findings

During the research, confirmation bias might cause you to remember information that supports your belief. You can prevent confirmation bias by documenting what you found during your research and what you learn from others. Documenting it ensures that you can refer to and review your findings to avoid bias in research.

7. Compare the data you find with the data supporting your beliefs

After knowing how to find, interpret and remember information that negates your beliefs, focus on comparing this data with the data supporting your belief. Try to compare the two sets of information while being neutral and objective. Comparing the data helps you understand which data to use for the research, irrespective of your beliefs.

Related: 12 Data Transformation Tools (With Examples And FAQs)

8. Test your conclusion

After comparing information supporting different beliefs, it becomes easier to reach a conclusion. On reaching a conclusion, consider testing it with a few trusted people. You can either maintain your original views or adopt a new conviction based on what you conclude.

Tips For Managing Confirmation Bias

Here are a few ways to manage confirmation bias:

Create a positive work environment

A workplace includes different people who share different views and opinions. Often, these people might not agree with certain views or practices. Typically, a workplace that focuses on productivity and communication creates an effective environment. The presence of confirmation bias might create tension in the workplace and reduce the morale of employees. Building workplace communication and focusing on building bonds amongst employees can avoid negative and unproductive workplaces.

Related: How To Keep A Positive Attitude: A Complete Guide

Focus on conflict management

When you know how to manage conflicts, it reduces situations that lead to a negative work environment. Typically, confirmation bias affects the working relationships, such that various departments might not work productively. When you understand and identify confirmation bias, focus on developing conflict management skills and decrease the likelihood of potential problems occurring.

Related: Conflict Management Skills: Definition And Examples

Enhance your self-awareness

Knowing how you understand and interpret information and how it affects your research can help you avoid confirmation bias. Typically, self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. As this bias focuses on a person's emotions, self-awareness can help individuals overcome their emotions, control them and remain neutral. Self-awareness also helps you identify how you feel about specific topics and what you can do to overcome confirmation bias.

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