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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Michael Shermer talks about confirmation bias

I enjoyed this little article by Michael Shermer , where he had this to say about confirmation bias:

"Research on confirmation bias has found that when subjects are presented with evidence that contradicts their deeply held beliefs, they dismiss it as invalid, while other subjects treat the same information as valuable when it confirms what they believe. In one study, for example, subjects were shown a video of a child taking a test. One group was told that the child was from a high socioeconomic class; the other group was told that the child was from a low socioeconomic class. The subjects were asked to evaluate the academic abilities of the child based on the results of the test. The child believed to be from the high socioeconomic group was rated as above grade level, but the child believed to be from the low socioeconomic group wasrated as below grade level. Same data. Same kid. Different interpretations."

Ok, folks, Have a great Thanksgiving...I'm going to start celebrating a little early.


  1. NM,

    Good find, thanks.

    "....I'm going to start celebrating a little early."

    Good idea!

  2. Nice article!

    I work in finance and you see a lot of confirmation bias in trading. People will sit on a stock and watch there positions get worse and worse all the while explaining away the warning signs.

    We've got to look out for this as well, because it happens to absolutely everyone.

  3. Vagon wrote:
    "We've got to look out for this as well, because it happens to absolutely everyone."

    No it doesn't, and I have never seen any valid evidence to contradict my belief that confirmation bias doesn't apply to me!

  4. Quasar,
    I agree, I do not suffer from confirmation bias because I have no confirmations.

    Seriously though. In my experience,I have seen a lot of people like myself, who actually thrive on being proven wrong.

    My late father would say on the appropriate occasion that, "only where there is doubt can there be reason."

    Freethinkers (due to their confirmation bias?) are more inclined to have an open mind and operate in a fairly logical and reasonable manner, whereby they must be ready to have some of their Confirmations challenged. Due to our nature we are bound to harbor wrong ideas for many valid reasons. I, for one look foreward to being challenged, and if I see that I have used an irrational or a wrong assumption. I am more than happy to go off on an new and enlightened direction.

    There are people out there that must be right all the time. They would be absolutely humiliated to admit they made a mistake. It is no wonder that so many of them gravitate towards funamentalism as it validates their assertion that they are above reproach.

    Vera is a prime example of that type of mindset.

  5. I hate to do this, but in my previous comment I said,
    ""only where there is doubt can there be reason."

    That should have been,
    "only where there is doubt can there be Freedom.

    That includes freedom of conscience.

  6. "...I'm going to start celebrating a little early"

    Me too. I'm home for a few days, and my dad and I are about to sit down for some beers.

    Have a great one everybody. I'm thankful for having such a cool, smart, interesting crowd of online buddies.

  7. Vagon,

    You started this brouhaha, please chime in!

  8. Geoff,

    And that is what it is all about.

    We'll be heading up north tomorrow to spend the day with my side of the family this year. Then with Mrs Frog's side over the Solsice Celebrations. We alternate.

  9. Happy Thanksgiving to all the USAians

  10. I don't believe this article at all. My worldview and I remain unimpressed.

  11. Comin' in Froggie!

    Perhaps it is my bias for confirmation bias but I am still inclined it to believe it works on everyone - Its just some mitigate it better than others.

    Bias works its way into ambiguous situations. This is obviously the case for fundamentalists, but it comes into other parts of your life too.

    The stockmarket is the perfect example of this because no one has ever made a model to predict it.

    There is a classic pattern. Based on some info that convinced you to make some sizable trades. The trading works for say 12 months and then things start to go wrong. you don't notice because its worked so well for what seems like such a long time and no obvious factors have changed. You reaffirm the conditions seem the same as when you bought in and in a short amount of time you lose all your gains.

    This happens tonnes unless you have some sort of objective check or unwavering framework in place.

    I would suggest in your case you do have confirmation bias to not believe in God. Your frame-work or reality check is the acceptance of evidence and logic. So if someone shows you that a particular position is not contradictory in the Bible you can review it logically and agree.

    The equivalent would be a trader say using a series of financial ratios as an objective point of exit from a position.

    The problem with theists is they use a non objective framework.

  12. Vagon said:
    "The problem with theists is they use a non objective framework."

    Warning: MFT Rocket is re-entering the atmosphere. Re-entry tests check out. Target data correctly matches satellite feed. Re-entry successful, prepare for atomic presuppositional impact in 3... 2... 1...

  13. prepare for atomic presuppositional impact in 3... 2... 1...

    By what standard of logic ... ups! Sorry, that would be scmike!


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