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Know How Confirmation Bias Colours Your Decisions

You know those moments when you get an idea or make a decision, and everything you see seems to confirm your wisdom? It’s probably not a sign from the universe. It might be confirmation bias, which can be explained through Eddie Murphy.

Actually, the You Are Not So Smart blog explains confirmation bias through The Golden Child, a 1980s “mystical comedy” released during Eddie Murphy’s Hollywood heyday. You can easily be led into thinking the movie is hitting some kind of ironic renaissance, as you start seeing it everywhere — Tumblr references, cable television, ’80s culture specials — but you’re probably also filtering out all the other films you’ve seen referenced in the meantime.

On a more scientific level, there’s a 1979 study in which people read about the details throughout a week’s time for Jane, an imaginary character. The details were meant to show even distribution between introversion and extroversion. A few days after reading, the people were split up into two groups, and half were asked if Jane would make a good librarian, and the other half asked about her being a real estate agent:

In the librarian group, people remembered her as an introvert. In the real-estate group, they remembered her being an extrovert. After this, when they were asked if she would be good at the other profession people stuck with their original assessment, saying she wasn’t suited for the other job.

The study suggests even in your memories you fall prey to confirmation bias, recalling those things which support your beliefs, forgetting those things which debunk them.

It’s one of those “the more you know” things — you probably can’t rewire your brain to avoid confirmation bias, but knowing about it can prevent you from quitting your job because everybody is seemingly enthused about your organic dog treat business plan.

Confirmation Bias [You Are Not So Smart]