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Explainonebias in thinking and decision-making with reference tooneresearch study. (9)Confirmation bias is defined asthe tendency to search for, interpret, favour, andrecall information or evidence that substantiates one's pre-existing beliefs orhypotheses and this thinking bias can lead to poor decision-making. For example, wemeet a man who says he is a mathematician. Due to our schema of stored knowledgeabout mathematicians, in general, we expect the man will be rather unemotional,lacking in social skills and have a strange sense of humour. Having spoken with himwe may remember things that he said that confirm our beliefs, e.g. he was ratherquiet and failed to laugh when I made a joke and we ignore information thatcontrasts with expectation, e.g. he spoke warmly about his daughter and maintainedgood eye contact. Unfortunately, this style of thinking may lead us to draw unhelpfulconclusions, such that we do not seek out this man in future and miss out on apotential interesting new friend.This thinking strategy may have evolved to help us cope with the intensity and sheervolume of information received through the senses. In order to cope with this floodof incoming data, humans instinctively deploy ‘system one’ thinking, (Stanowich andWest 2000) which is fast and occurs without conscious awareness. As we have nocontrol over this style of thinking, we may be ‘forced’ to ignore information that doesnot fit with prior knowledge. Instead we focus on a limited array of details which weuse to confirm our pre-existing sense of reality before putting in sufficient effort todiscover contradictory evidence. Confirmation bias can clearly be understood withinthis framework andFiske and Taylor’s (1984) description of humans as ‘cognitivemisers’, who avoid expending time and effort on cognitive tasks and use heuristics ormental short cuts is particularly salient.One field in which confirmation bias can lead to devastating consequences ismedicine, where misdiagnosis could lead to incorrect treatment, further healthcomplications or even death. It has been argued that doctors often selectively attendto information which confirms a preliminary diagnosis, failing to attend tocontradictory signs and symptoms which are suggestive of a different diagnosis orthe alternative possibility, that the patient is in fact disease-free. For example, apatient may have been diagnosed with migraine following presentation withheadaches, at which point the doctor may not pick up on signs of forgetfulness or co-ordination problems, which could denote a more serious issue such as a braintumour. Confirmation bias may also mean that the doctor asks leading questionswhich mean that the patient is more likely to provide information that fits with thedoctor’s expectations, e.g. do have any visual disturbance prior to the headachecoming on?
Mendel

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