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What is Confirmation Bias – Types & Examples

Published by at August 21st, 2023 , Revised On September 1, 2023

In our daily lives, we are constantly inundated with information. Some of it aligns with our beliefs, while some challenge them. However, our brains, due to cognitive biases, have a tendency to gravitate towards information that reaffirms our pre-existing beliefs and downplay or ignore those that go against them. 

This phenomenon is known as confirmation bias, and understanding it is crucial if we want to make objective decisions and broaden our perspective. This bias, while primarily associated with the confirmation of beliefs, is not the only bias that affects our perceptions. 

For instance, explicit bias is a conscious bias against or in favour of a group. On the other hand, actor-observer bias refers to the tendency to attribute our actions to external causes and the actions of others to internal factors.

What is Confirmation Bias?

Confirmation bias refers to the tendency of people to favour information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs or values. It is pervasive and can influence decisions in various fields such as finance, medicine, and law, among others. 

Moreover, scholarly sources often highlight that the ceiling effect, where the observation is impeded because the variable does not have a ceiling or upper limit, can coexist with confirmation bias in research settings. When coupled with publication bias, where positive results are more likely to get published, the depth of how research may be skewed becomes evident.

It can also play a significant role in reinforcing misconceptions, prejudice, and leading to poor decisions since it prevents people from seeing the full picture or considering opposing viewpoints. Notably, affinity bias – the unconscious tendency to get along with others who are like us – can be intertwined with confirmation bias, making it even more challenging to overcome. Furthermore, it is an essential concept in the study of critical thinking and cognitive psychology.

Example of Confirmation Bias

Imagine Sarah believes that full moons cause people to behave more erratically. One evening, during a full moon, she notices her neighbour acting agitated and shouting. Sarah immediately thinks, “See, I knew it! The full moon is making people act strange.”

However, Sarah might be ignoring or not seeking out other factors that could explain her neighbour’s behaviour. Perhaps her neighbour had a particularly stressful day, received some bad news, or any number of reasons unrelated to the moon’s phase.

Additionally, on nights when there is no full moon, Sarah might overlook or forget instances where people act out of the ordinary, only focusing on and remembering such instances when they coincide with a full moon.

In this case, Sarah’s belief about the full moon affecting behaviour is reinforced by her selective attention and memory, which is a manifestation of confirmation bias.

Types of Confirmation Bias

Following are the different types of confirmation bias. 

Selective Exposure/Seeking

Individuals tend to expose themselves primarily to information sources that align with their pre-existing beliefs. For instance, they might only watch news channels or read publications that share their political or social views.

Example of Selective Exposure

 A person who believes in the efficacy of a particular health remedy might only read articles and testimonials that support its benefits while ignoring scientific studies that debunk its effectiveness.

Selective Perception

Even when presented with balanced information, individuals may only notice and accept details that confirm their beliefs while ignoring those that challenge them.

Example of Selective Perception

In a debate about climate change, an individual might only recall data points that support their stance, ignoring the comprehensive data that provides a contrary perspective.

Selective Recall/Memory Bias

People tend to remember events or information that aligns with their beliefs more than events or information that challenges them.

Example of Selective Recall

A student who thinks a particular professor is unfair might remember the few times they received a lower grade but forget the numerous times they received high grades.

Interpretative Bias

This involves interpreting ambiguous evidence as supportive of one’s existing beliefs.

Example of Interpretative Bias

If an employee believes a co-worker is out to get them, they might interpret any small oversight or mistake by the co-worker as a deliberate slight, even if it was unintentional.

Confirmation Trap

This occurs when people fall into a loop of gathering information until they find evidence that confirms their beliefs, often ignoring a plethora of contradicting evidence. While Sarah’s example earlier was not directly related to a bias for action, wherein people favour action over inaction, this could be another trap. Someone might rush to find affirming information instead of patiently analysing all evidence.

Example of Confirmation Trap

Someone researching the existence of extraterrestrial life might continue searching until they find a single questionable source that agrees with them, while overlooking numerous credible sources that offer counter-arguments.

Attitude Polarisation

When confronted with conflicting evidence, individuals may become more entrenched in their original beliefs rather than updating them.

Example of Attitude Polarisation

In the face of studies showing the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, some vaccine sceptics become more convinced of their dangers.

Confirmation Bias in Hypothesis Testing

Rather than testing an idea through objective means, individuals might seek out scenarios or experiments that would confirm their hypothesis.


A researcher might design an experiment with a particular outcome in mind, ignoring alternative experimental designs that might challenge their hypothesis.

Biased Weighting of Evidence

Giving more weight or importance to evidence that supports one’s beliefs, while devaluing evidence to the contrary.


In a discussion about the effects of a new policy, an individual might emphasise a single positive anecdote over a comprehensive study showing mixed results.

Relevance and Implications

The types of confirmation bias have significant implications in various domains:

  • Decision Making: Confirmation bias can lead to poor decisions, as individuals may overlook important information that challenges their beliefs.
  • Science and Research: The scientific method requires objective hypothesis testing. Confirmation bias can jeopardise the integrity of research findings. This is where distinguishing between primary source and secondary source information becomes pivotal. 
  • The former refers to direct or first-hand evidence, while the latter is a document or recording that relates or discusses information originally presented elsewhere. Using a source evaluation method can also be instrumental in determining the credibility of your references.
  • Sociopolitical Issues: People entrenched in their beliefs can contribute to societal polarisation, making it harder to find common ground or achieve compromise.

Confirmation Bias Examples

Here are some examples of confirmation bias in various situations:

  • A person only follows news outlets or individuals who align with their own political beliefs. Any alternative viewpoints or conflicting evidence are ignored or dismissed.
  • An investor believes a particular stock is a good buy. They selectively seek out positive news about the company and ignore warning signs or negative information.
  • If someone believes their partner is untrustworthy, they might focus only on incidents where their partner was late or forgot to call, ignoring all the times when their partner was reliable.
  • An employer might have a favourite employee and always notices when that person does well but overlooks mistakes. Conversely, they might have a bias against another employee, noticing only their mistakes and overlooking their accomplishments.
  • A person might read an article that suggests a specific food is bad for health. Even if multiple other studies suggest otherwise, they might only remember and reference the single negative study.
  • Someone believes in ghosts and feels a cold breeze in an old house. They might immediately interpret this as a sign of a ghostly presence, ignoring the open window in the next room.
  • A fan believes the referee is biased against their favourite team. They notice every call that goes against their team but overlook or rationalize calls that favour them.
  • A researcher has a hypothesis about a specific outcome. They might give more weight to data that supports their hypothesis and dismiss or not even notice data that contradicts it.
  • A consumer believes a particular brand is superior. They may focus only on positive reviews and ignore negative reviews or problems with the product.
  • People might read and accept historical narratives that paint their nation or culture in a positive light while dismissing or overlooking events or interpretations that might be seen as negative.

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How to Avoid Confirmation Bias

Here are some steps you can take to minimize the impact of confirmation bias:


Recognising that you are susceptible to confirmation bias is the first step. Everyone, regardless of intelligence or education, can fall prey to it.

Seek out Disconfirming Evidence

Make a deliberate effort to find information that challenges your beliefs. Actively look for evidence that disproves, rather than supports, your opinion.

Expose yourself to Diverse View points

Engage with people who have different perspectives and opinions. Read publications or follow news sources that don’t necessarily align with your beliefs.

Avoid Echo Chambers

Online communities and social media can create environments where only similar viewpoints are shared and repeated. Try to diversify your online interactions and sources of information.

Critical Thinking

Always ask yourself if you are accepting information because it’s true or because it aligns with what you already believe. Evaluate evidence based on its merit and not based on your beliefs.

Ask for Feedback

Encourage others to challenge your beliefs and viewpoints. This can be colleagues, friends, or mentors.

Play Devil’s Advocate

Consider the opposite side of your argument. This can also be understood through the Pygmalion effect, where the greater the expectation placed upon people, often the better they perform. If you expect the opposite viewpoint to have some validity, you might find some surprising truths.

Check the Source

Ensure that the information or data you’re considering comes from reliable, unbiased sources.

Limit Emotional Reasoning

Emotions can intensify confirmation bias. Make an effort to separate your emotions from the information you are evaluating.

Keep a Decision Journal

When making important decisions, write down your thought process and why you came to a particular conclusion. This will allow you to revisit and critically analyse your decisions later.

Be Humble

Recognise that you don’t have all the answers and that your beliefs and opinions can change based on new information.

Stay Curious

Adopt a mindset of curiosity rather than seeking affirmation. When you approach topics with an open mind and a genuine desire to learn, you’re less likely to fall into confirmation traps.

Reflect Regularly

Take time to introspect and think about times when you might have fallen for confirmation bias. Learn from those situations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Confirmation bias is the tendency to favour information that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or values while ignoring or dismissing evidence that contradicts them. This cognitive bias can influence perception, memory, and decision-making, often leading to flawed conclusions or reinforcing subjective viewpoints.

To avoid confirmation bias, actively seek diverse perspectives, challenge your assumptions, and expose yourself to contradictory information. Practice critical thinking, question the source of information, and avoid relying solely on anecdotes. Encourage feedback, engage in self-reflection, and remain open-minded, embracing the possibility of being wrong or updating beliefs.

In psychology, confirmation bias refers to the cognitive tendency to seek, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or hypotheses. This bias can hinder objective analysis and lead to flawed decisions, as individuals may inadvertently dismiss or overlook evidence that contradicts their established viewpoints.

If someone believes that a particular zodiac sign is inherently untrustworthy, they might remember instances where people of that sign were deceitful while ignoring cases where they were honest. This selective attention and memory reinforce their belief, even if it’s not representative of the broader reality. This is confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias leads individuals to prioritize and trust information that aligns with their existing beliefs, while dismissing or overlooking contradictory evidence. This cognitive bias can distort perception, memory, and decision-making, often resulting in a skewed understanding of reality, reinforcing subjective viewpoints, and potentially leading to flawed conclusions or actions.

Confirmation bias affects decision-making by leading individuals to favour information that aligns with their pre-existing beliefs, while ignoring contradictory evidence. This can result in decisions based on incomplete or inaccurate data. Such biased decisions might lack objectivity, perpetuate stereotypes, and hinder innovative solutions by reinforcing established, yet possibly erroneous, perspectives.

Yes, confirmation bias is related to heuristic thinking. Heuristics are mental shortcuts that simplify complex decision-making. While they can increase efficiency, they sometimes lead to errors. Confirmation bias is one such heuristic, where people quickly favour information that confirms their existing beliefs, often at the expense of comprehensive, objective evaluation.

Teachers can encourage students to overcome confirmation bias by promoting critical thinking, presenting multiple perspectives, and emphasizing evidence-based reasoning. Assigning debates on contentious topics, teaching media literacy, and prompting self-reflection are effective strategies. Encouraging diverse group discussions and fostering an open classroom environment can also counteract this bias.

Researchers can avoid confirmation bias by using double-blind experimental designs, rigorously adhering to pre-established protocols, and actively seeking disconfirming evidence. Peer review, replication by independent researchers, and maintaining awareness of one’s biases also help. Transparent data collection and analysis, combined with open-mindedness, further mitigate the effects of this bias.

About Owen Ingram

Avatar for Owen IngramIngram is a dissertation specialist. He has a master's degree in data sciences. His research work aims to compare the various types of research methods used among academicians and researchers.