Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Confirmation bias


Couple more thoughts I picked up last week...

I finally found out the name of something I’ve know about for a while: Confirmation bias.

This is the brain’s tendency to seek out information that supports are existing beliefs, and to put more faith in evidence that supports out current beliefs; rather than take a purely balanced view. Confirmation bias means that we human’s aren’t a rational and neutral as we like to think we are.

Several of the presentations a Tom’s seminar last week demonstrated techniques that can be used to expose our assumptions. Assumptions are a bad thing, they blind us to things we need to know. However they are useful, they serve as short cuts which enable us to process information faster.

I had a lecturer as an undergraduate who told us to “Always document your assumptions” which I tried to do. Then he would knock marks off for not documenting assumptions. Trouble is, I didn’t know I was making them. Assumptions can be difficult things to recognise.

Especially when you take in confirmation bias.