I Knew It! The Power of Confirmation Bias

I Knew It! The Power of Confirmation Bias

a group of young people in bright t-shirts giving thumbs up, with white text over reading "the power of confirmation bias"

A client told me recently that each time he sees the premier of our province being interviewed on television, regardless of what she says, it serves as validation that she, her party and its ideological practices are 100% responsible for the faltering state of our economy as well as all other social ills.

Remember, his viewpoint is unaffected by what she says, only by the fact that she is speaking.

Are you at all like this? Do you hold one or more beliefs so strongly that you will seek and embrace anything that confirms your belief while rejecting – perhaps even refusing to acknowledge – anything to the contrary?

It’s Human Nature

If your answer is yes it tells us two things about you. Firstly, you are human and secondly, you are a participant in something known as confirmation bias.

This is a cognitive bias that encourages us to favor anything that supports what we believe to be true, and to seek this confirmation even in the face of contradictory evidence.

Another client recently shared with me an experience that gave her a new understanding of the power of confirmation bias.

Her company was hiring a senior manager for a position in a distant office. Three candidates had been placed on a short list and each had undergone an extensive interview which, with their permission, had been videoed for review by management personnel at the head office.

My client was one of those selected to watch the videos.

To her absolute surprise, one of the candidates was her ex-husband. She did not know he had moved to a new city and she was shocked when he appeared on the screen.

Her divorce had been acrimonious and seeing him in the interview brought back memories she’d been working hard to forget.

He, like the other two candidates, had presented extremely well with only one minor blip in his presentation. To her, this small slipup, was proof-positive that he clearly was not the best candidate and her vote went to one of the other two.

Fortunately for her ex-husband, her colleagues did not share her views and ultimately, he was awarded the position.

By the time she told me the story, a year had passed and he had proven to be an exemplary employee. She acknowledged the powerful role that confirmation bias had played in her voting no.

We Find What We’re Looking For

She admitted that she had looked for fault in his presentation in order to confirm her belief that he was the wrong candidate and – seek and ye shall find – she found precisely what she was looking for.

Confirmation bias is a crafty little creation. It creeps up on us and presents itself, whether we want it to or not. It niggles at our decision-making and often causes us to second-guess ourselves.

It influences how we think about most things and provides valuable support in our quest to be right. And it often steers us down the wrong path.

So, beware! It’s difficult to resist and almost impossible to ignore.



Till we read again.

Photo of Rael Kalley,Habits coach in calgary canada

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