Confirmation Bias: Examples & Observations (2023)

How Confirmation Bias Works

By Iqra Noor, published June 10, 2020

Take-home Messages
  • Confirmation bias is the tendency of people to favor information that confirms their existing beliefs or hypotheses.
  • Confirmation bias happens when a person gives more weight to evidence that confirms their beliefs and undervalues evidence that could disprove it.
  • People display this biaswhen they gather or recall information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way.
  • The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs.

Confirmation Bias is the tendency to look for information that supports, rather than rejects, one’s preconceptions, typically by interpreting evidence to confirm existing beliefs while rejecting or ignoring any conflicting data (American Psychological Association).

One of the early demonstrations of confirmation bias appeared in an experiment by Peter Watson (1960) in which the subjects were to find the experimenter’s rule for sequencing numbers.

Its results showed that the subjects chose responses that supported their hypotheses while rejecting contradictory evidence, and even though their hypotheses were not correct, they became confident in them quickly (Gray, 2010, p. 356).

Though such evidence of the confirmation bias has appeared in psychological literature throughout history, the term ‘confirmation bias’ was first used in a 1977 paper detailing an experimental study on the topic (Mynatt, Doherty, & Tweney, 1977).

Confirmation Bias: Examples & Observations (1)

Table of contents

  1. Types of Confirmation Bias
  2. Examples
  3. Explanations
  4. Implications
  5. Mitigating Confirmation Bias
  6. Related Cognitive Biases

Types of Confirmation Bias

Biased Search for Information

This type of confirmation bias explains people’s search for evidence in a one-sided way to support their hypotheses or theories.

Experiments have shown that people provide tests/questions that are designed to yield “yes” if their favored hypothesis was true, and ignore alternative hypotheses that are likely to give the same result.

This is also known as congruence heuristic (Baron, 2000, p.162-64). Though the preference for affirmative questions itself may not be bias, there are experiments that have shown that congruence bias does exist.

For Example:

If you were to search “Are cats better than dogs?” in Google, all you will get are sites listing the reasons why cats are better. However, if you were to search “Are dogs better than cats?” google will only provide you with sites that believe dogs are better than cats. This shows that phrasing questions in a one-sided way (i.e. affirmative manner) will assist you in obtaining evidence consistent with your hypothesis.

Biased Interpretation

This type of bias explains that people interpret evidence with respect to their existing beliefs by typically evaluating confirming evidence differently than evidence that challenges their preconceptions.

Various experiments have shown that people tend to not change their beliefs on complex issues even after being provided with research because of the way they interpret the evidence.

Additionally, people accept “confirming” evidence more easily and critically evaluate the “disconfirming” evidence (this is known as disconfirmation bias) (Taber & Lodge, 2006). When provided with the same evidence, people’s interpretations could still be biased.

For example:

Biased interpretation is shown in an experiment conducted by Stanford University on the topic of capital punishment. It included participants who were in support of and others who were againstcapital punishment. All subjects were provided with the same two studies, and after reading the detailed descriptions of the studies, participants still held their initial beliefs and supported their reasoning by providing “confirming” evidence from the studies and rejecting any contradictory evidence, or considering it inferior to the “confirming” evidence (Lord, Ross, & Lepper, 1979).

(Video) Confirmation Bias in 5 Minutes

Biased Memory

To confirm their current beliefs, people may remember/recall information selectively. Psychological theories vary in defining memory bias.

Some theories state that information confirming prior beliefs is stored in the memory while contradictory evidence is not (i.e. Schema theory). Some others claim that striking information is remembered best (i.e. humor effect).

Memory confirmation bias also serves a role in stereotype maintenance. Experiments have shown that mental association between expectancy-confirming information and the group label strongly affects recall and recognition memory.

Though a certain stereotype about a social group might not be true for an individual, people tend to remember the stereotype-consistent information better than any disconfirming evidence (Fyock & Stangor, 1994).

For example:

In one experimental study, participants were asked to read a woman’s profile (detailing her extroverted and introverted skills) and assess her for either a job of a librarian or real-estate salesperson. Those assessing her as a salesperson better recalled extroverted traits while the other group recalled more examples of introversion (Snyder & Cantor, 1979).

These experiments, along with others, have offered an insight into selective memory and provided evidence for biased memory, proving that one searches for and better remembers confirming evidence.

Examples of Confirmation Bias

Examples of Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias: Examples & Observations (2)

Social Media

Social Media

Information we are presented on media is not only reflective of what the users want to see but also of the designers’ beliefs and values. Today, people are exposed to an overwhelming number of news sources, each varying in their credibility.

To form conclusions, people tend to read the news that aligns with their perspectives. For instance, new channels provide information (even the same news) differently from each other on complex issues (i.e. racism, political parties, etc.), with some using sensational headlines/pictures and one-sided information.

(Video) What is Confirmation Bias? | Documentary Clip

Due to the biased coverage of topics, people only utilize certain channels/sites to obtain their information to make biased conclusions.

Religious Faith

Religious Faith

People also tend to search for and interpret evidence with respect to their religious beliefs (if any).

For instance, on the topics of abortion and transgender rights, people whose religions are against such things will interpret this information differently than others and will look for evidence to validate what they believe.

Similarly, those who religiously reject the theory of evolution will either gather information disproving evolution or hold no official stance on the topic.

Also, irreligious people might perceive events that are considered “miracles” and “test of faiths” by religious people to be a reinforcement of their lack of faith in a religion.

Explanations of Confirmation Bias

There are several explanations as to why humans possess confirmation bias, including this tendency being an efficient way to process information, protect self-esteem, and minimize cognitive dissonance.

Information Processing

Information Processing

Confirmation bias serves as an efficient way to process information because of the limitless information humans are exposed to.

To form an unbiased decision, one would have to critically evaluate every piece of information present which is unfeasible, therefore people only tend to look for information desired to form their conclusions (Casad, 2019).

Protect Self-esteem

Protect Self-esteem

People are susceptible to confirmation bias to protect their self-esteem (to know that their beliefs are accurate). To make themselves feel confident, they tend to look for information that supports their existing beliefs (Casad, 2019).

Minimize Cognitive Dissonance

Minimize Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance also explains why confirmation bias is adaptive. Cognitive dissonance is a mental conflict that occurs when a person holds two contradictory beliefsand causes psychological stress/unease in a person.

To minimize this dissonance, people adapt to confirmation bias by avoiding information that is contradictory to their views and seeking evidence confirming their beliefs.

Challenge avoidance and reinforcement seeking affect people’s thoughts/reactions differently since exposure to disconfirming information results in negative emotions, something that is nonexistent when seeking reinforcing evidence (“The Confirmation Bias: Why People See What They Want to See”).

Implications of Confirmation Bias

Implications of Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias consistently shapes the way we look for and interpret information that influences our decisions in this society, ranging from homes to global platforms. This bias prevents people from gathering information objectively.



During the election campaign, people tend to look for information confirming their perspectives on different candidates while ignoring any information contradictory to their views.

This subjective manner of obtaining information can lead to overconfidence in a candidate and misinterpretation/overlook of important information, thus influences their voting decision and eventually country’s leadership (Cherry, 2020).

Recruitment and Selection

Recruitment and Selection

Confirmation bias also affects employment diversity because preconceived ideas about different social groups can introduce discrimination (though it might be unconscious) and impact the recruitment process (Agarwal, 2018).

Existing beliefs of a certain group being more competent than the other is the reason why particular races and gender are represented the most in companies today. This bias can hamper the company’s attempt at diversifying their employees.

Mitigating Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias: Examples & Observations (3)

Change in intrapersonal thought:

Change in intrapersonal thought:

To avoid being susceptible to confirmation bias, start questioning your research methods and sources used to obtain their information.

Expanding the types of sources used in searching for information could provide different aspects on a particular topic and offer levels of credibility.

  • Read entire articles, rather than forming conclusions based on the headlines and pictures. - Search for credible evidence presented in the article.
  • Analyze if the statements being asserted are backed up by trustworthy evidence (tracking the source of evidence could.
  • prove its credibility). - Encourage yourself and others to gather information in a conscious manner.

Alternative hypothesis:

Alternative hypothesis:

Confirmation bias occurs when people tend to look for information that is confirming their beliefs/hypothesis, but this bias can be reduced by taking into alternative hypotheses and their consequences.

(Video) Confirmation Bias in UX Work

Considering the possibility of beliefs/hypotheses other than one’s own could help you gather information in a more dynamic manner (rather than one-sided way).

Related Cognitive Biases

Related Cognitive Biases

There are many cognitive biases that characterize as subtypes of confirmation bias. Following are two of the subtypes:

Backfire Effect

Backfire Effect

Backfire effect occurs when people’s preexisting beliefs strengthen when challenged by contradictory evidence (Silverman, 2011).

  • Therefore, disproving a misconception can actually strengthen a person's belief in that misconception.

One piece of disconfirming evidence does not result in a change in people’s views, but a constant flow of credible refutations could correct misinformation/misconceptions.

This effect is considered a subtype of confirmation bias because it explains people’s reactions to new information based on their preexisting hypotheses.

For example:

A study by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler (two researchers on political misinformation) explored the effects of different types of statements on people’s beliefs.

While examining two statements “I am not a Muslim, Obama says.” and “I am aChristian, Obama says,” they concluded that the latter statement is more persuasive and resulted in people’s change of beliefs, thus affirming statements are more effective at correcting incorrect views (Silverman, 2011).

Halo Effect

Halo Effect

The halo effect occurs when people use impressions from a single trait to form conclusions about other unrelated attributes. It is heavily influenced by the first impression.

Research on this effect was pioneered by American psychologist Edward Thorndike who in 1920 described ways officers rated their soldiers on different traits based on first impression (Neugaard, 2019).

Experiments have shown that when positive attributes are presented first, a person is judged more favorably than when negative traits are shown first. This is a subtype of confirmation bias because it allows us to structure our thinking about other information using only initial evidence.

About the Author

Iqra Noor is a member of the Class of 2023 at Harvard University. She is on a premedical track studying Neuroscience and Linguistics with a minor in Global Health and Health Policy. On campus, Iqra is involved with cultural, advocacy, and tutoring organizations.

How to reference this article:

How to reference this article:

Noor, I.(2020, June 10). Confirmation bias. Simply Psychology.


Agarwal, P., Dr. (2018, October 19). Here Is How Bias Can Affect Recruitment In Your Organisation.

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). APA Dictionary of Psychology.

Baron, J. (2000). Thinking and Deciding (Third ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Casad, B. (2019, October 09). Confirmation bias.

Cherry, K. (2020, February 19). Why Do We Favor Information That Confirms Our Existing Beliefs?

(Video) Confirmation Bias in Decision Making Explained in One Minute: From Definition/Meaning to Examples

Fyock, J., & Stangor, C. (1994). The role of memory biases in stereotype maintenance. The British journal of social psychology, 33(3), 331–343.

Gray, P. O. (2010). Psychology. New York: Worth Publishers.

Lord, C. G., Ross, L., & Lepper, M. R. (1979). Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: The effects of prior theories on subsequently considered evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(11), 2098–2109.

Mynatt, C. R., Doherty, M. E., & Tweney, R. D. (1977). Confirmation bias in a simulated research environment: An experimental study of scientific inference. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 29(1), 85-95.

Neugaard, B. (2019, October 09). Halo effect.

Silverman, C. (2011, June 17). The Backfire Effect.

Snyder, M., & Cantor, N. (1979). Testing hypotheses about other people: The use of historical knowledge. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 15(4), 330–342.

How to reference this article:

How to reference this article:

Noor, I.(2020, June 10). Confirmation bias. Simply Psychology.

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What is a good example of confirmation bias? ›

For example, imagine that a person holds a belief that left-handed people are more creative than right-handed people. Whenever this person encounters a person that is both left-handed and creative, they place greater importance on this "evidence" supporting their already existing belief.

What is confirmation bias Select answer? ›

confirmation bias, the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one's existing beliefs. This biased approach to decision making is largely unintentional and often results in ignoring inconsistent information.

What are the 3 types of bias examples? ›

Confirmation bias, sampling bias, and brilliance bias are three examples that can affect our ability to critically engage with information.

What are some examples of confirmation bias in action at work? ›

A common confirmation bias is the mindset that a coworker is lazy. This is common in many organizations. If you single out a colleague as a lazy person, you tend to view everything they do as being lethargic. Certainly, you have witnessed this situation or seen it play out.

What is confirmation example? ›

A confirmation provides proof that something is true. An example might be when you receive confirmation that your flight will be on time, or you find out that something you thought might have happened actually did occur. Confirmation is verification or final proof of something.

What is confirmation bias in a sentence? ›

There is clearly a confirmation bias at work here. Doctors may fall prey to confirmation bias, which leads them to misconstrue the evidence before them.

What is an example of the confirmation bias quizlet? ›

Some examples of confirmation bias are especially harmful, specifically in the context of the law. For example, a detective may identify a suspect early in an investigation and then seek out confirming evidence and downplay falsifying evidence.

What is an example of a bias sample? ›

For example, a survey of high school students to measure teenage use of illegal drugs will be a biased sample because it does not include home-schooled students or dropouts. A sample is also biased if certain members are underrepresented or overrepresented relative to others in the population.

What is bias explain with example? ›

a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned: illegal bias against older job applicants;the magazine's bias toward art rather than photography;our strong bias in favor of the idea.

How do you recognize confirmation bias? ›

Signs of Confirmation Bias

Only seeking out information that confirms your beliefs and ignoring or discredit information that doesn't support them. Looking for evidence that confirms what you already think is true, rather than considering all of the evidence available.

What is observation bias in research? ›

Observer bias happens when a researcher's expectations, opinions, or prejudices influence what they perceive or record in a study. It often affects studies where observers are aware of the research aims and hypotheses. Observer bias is also called detection bias.

What are your top 5 biases? ›

The 5 Biggest Biases That Affect Decision-Making
  • Similarity Bias — We prefer what is like us over what is different. ...
  • Expedience Bias — We prefer to act quickly rather than take time. ...
  • Experience Bias — We take our perception to be the objective truth. ...
  • Distance Bias — We prefer what's closer over what's farther away.
2 Aug 2022

What is the most common bias in the workplace? ›

Contrast Effect. Although the comparison is an easy way to evaluate others, it can be detrimental to progress and decision-making. The contrast effect is a type of bias that causes the most damage in the hiring process as it involves comparing candidates to each other.

What are the four types of confirmation bias? ›

Types of confirmation bias
  • Biased search for information.
  • Biased interpretation of information.
  • Biased memory recall of information.

What is a good sentence for confirmation? ›

Example Sentences

We don't have independent confirmation of the facts. Final confirmation came only after the investigation was completed. You will receive an e-mail confirmation of your order.

What is confirmation simple explanation? ›

Confirmation is one of the three sacraments of initiation. The other two are baptism and the Eucharist . Confirmation is a sign that a person has reached maturity and is now able to take responsibility for their own faith. It also strengthens and deepens the connection to the Church that is established at baptism.

How do I write my confirmation? ›

How to write a confirmation letter in 5 steps
  1. Include a letter header. ...
  2. Start with your explanation. ...
  3. Add detailed information about the confirmation. ...
  4. Highlight anything you might have attached. ...
  5. End with a supportive statement.
18 Aug 2021

Where have you seen confirmation bias in your daily life? ›

Sticking to a single news source is a powerful example of confirmation bias — the more you read from that one source, the more you're convinced they're telling the truth.

What is most accurate definition of confirmation bias? ›

Confirmation bias may be described as the conscious or unconscious tendency to affirm particular theories, opinions, or outcomes or findings. It is a specific kind of bias in which information and evidence are screened to include those things that confirm a desired position.

What are the five ways to beat confirmation bias? ›

This is the behavior psychologists refer to as confirmation bias.
In fact, the following actions could lead to improved decision-making in other areas of the audit as well:
  • Take it all in: Don't jump to conclusions. ...
  • Brainstorming: The rule of three. ...
  • Flag it. ...
  • Prove yourself wrong. ...
  • Circle back.
1 Feb 2015

Which of the following is an example of observer bias? ›

Which of the following is an example of observer bias? You ask people from your church to participate in a study of family values.

What is example sample? ›

An example is something or someone that is used as a model to represent a particular group, whereas a sample is a small part or quantity intended to show what the whole is like.

Which sentence is an example of a biased statement? ›

Which sentence is an example of a biased statement? A biased statement is a statement that is based on a personal preference or a personal interest. First example “These sandwiches are horrible' is a biased statement made by someone who doesn't like the taste of one or more of the ingredients on the sandwich.

What is a recent example of bias in your own thinking? ›

A cognitive bias that may result from this heuristic is that we ignore the base rate of events occurring when making decisions. For example, I am afraid of flying; however, it's more likely that I might be in a car crash than in a plane crash. Despite this, I still hate flying but am indifferent to hopping into my car.

How do you explain bias to someone? ›

A bias is a tendency, inclination, or prejudice toward or against something or someone. Some biases are positive and helpful—like choosing to only eat foods that are considered healthy or staying away from someone who has knowingly caused harm.

How do you overcome confirmation bias in the workplace? ›

The first step to overcoming unconscious confirmation biases is to educate yourself about it. Once you become aware of it, it will be easier to identify and avoid. You can help your team overcome confirmation bias by making sure they receive comprehensive training.

What are 3 types of observation? ›

Observation Methods
  • Controlled Observations.
  • Naturalistic Observations.
  • Participant Observations.

What are the 5 types of observation? ›

There are several different approaches to observational research including naturalistic observation, participant observation, structured observation, case studies, and archival research.

What is observation data in research? ›

Observation is way of gathering data by watching behavior, events, or noting physical characteristics in their natural setting. Observations can be overt (everyone knows they are being observed) or covert (no one knows they are being observed and the observer is concealed).

What are the 7 form of bias? ›

By ignoring prejudice, racism, discrimination, exploitation, oppression, sexism, and inter-group conflict, we deny students the information they need to recognize, understand, and perhaps some day conquer societal problems.

What biases are most common? ›

Confirmation Bias

One of the most common cognitive biases is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when a person looks for and interprets information (be it news stories, statistical data or the opinions of others) that backs up an assumption or theory they already have.

How do you avoid confirmation bias? ›

How to avoid confirmation bias?
  1. Seek contrary opinions, even if those opinions may seem uncomfortable to you at first. ...
  2. Do not rely on just one source of information to form opinions about a product. ...
  3. Knowledge is your biggest friend in overcoming investor biases.

What is confirmation bias in simple words? ›

Confirmation bias is a type of mistake that occurs in thinking when information that confirms a pre-existing belief is given priority over information that does not support a preexisting belief. Informally, confirmation bias is sometimes referred to as wishful thinking.

How do you identify confirmation bias in research? ›

You can do this by searching out disconfirming evidence of your theories, and forming factually-supported arguments with new evidence that can further prove your point.

What is confirmation bias and how can we avoid it? ›

The simplest way to avoid confirmation bias is to look at a belief you hold, and search out ways in which you're wrong, rather than the ways in which you're right. It's of paramount importance to listen to all sides and carefully consider them before coming to a conclusion.

How do you handle confirmation bias? ›

Three tips to overcome confirmation bias, to ensure you have reliable evidence:
  1. Seek other viewpoints, especially from people you disagree with. Create a culture that encourages dissent. ...
  2. Find experts who have gathered evidence, with a focus on high quality evidence. ...
  3. Pause before sharing.

What are two examples of personal biases in a personality test? ›

Ethnic bias and gender bias are two significant yet controversial examples of cultural test bias in personality assessment.


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