We are living in times where you cannot ignore the avalanche of information or misinformation coming our way from all sources.When information is the king , we need to understand the theories based on psychology to understand and interpret what is is being thrown at you on TV , and Social Media by way of information.

Ray Nickerson, Research Professor of Psychology, Tufts University  gives us a clear understanding of the situation.This appeared in an Article he wrote while explaining why people failed to assess the results of campaign the Trump team unleashed in US.

  • Confirmation bias is usually described as a tendency to notice or search out information that confirms what one already believes, or would like to believe, and to avoid or discount information that’s contrary to one’s beliefs or preferences. It could help explain why many election-watchers got it wrong: in the runup to the election, they saw only what they expected, or wanted, to see.
  • The role of motivation

Confirmation bias can appear in many forms, but for present purposes, we may divide them into two major types.

    • One is the tendency, when trying to determine whether to believe something is true or false, to look for evidence that it is true while failing to look for evidence that it is false.This may be called unmotivated bias.
    • Another type of confirmation bias is the tendency to seek information that supports one’s existing beliefs or preferences or to interpret data so as to support them, while ignoring or discounting data that argue against them. It may involve what is best described as case building, in which one collects data to lend as much credence as possible to a conclusion one wishes to confirm.This type of confirmation bias may be described as motivated, because it does involve that assumption that people are driven to preserve or defend their existing beliefs. It may go a step further than just focusing on details that support one’s existing beliefs; it may involve intentionally compiling evidence to confirm some claim.
  • Case building versus unbiased analysis
  • An example of case building and the motivated type of confirmation bias is clearly seen in the behavior of attorneys arguing a case in court. They present only evidence that they hope will increase the probability of a desired outcome. Unless obligated by law to do so, they don’t volunteer evidence that’s likely to harm their client’s chances of a favorable verdict.
  • Another example is a formal debate. One debater attempts to convince an audience that a proposition should be accepted, while another attempts to show that it should be rejected. Neither wittingly introduces evidence or ideas that will bolster one’s adversary’s position.
  • In these contexts, it is proper for protagonists to behave in this fashion. We generally understand the rules of engagement. Lawyers and debaters are in the business of case building. No one should be surprised if they omit information likely to weaken their own argument. But case building occurs in contexts other than courtrooms and debating halls. And often it masquerades as unbiased data collection and analysis.
  • Where confirmation bias becomes problematic
  • One sees the motivated confirmation bias in stark relief in commentary by partisans on controversial events or issues. Television and other media remind us daily that events evoke different responses from commentators depending on the positions they’ve taken on politically or socially significant issues.
  • Politically liberal and conservative commentators often interpret the same event and its implications in diametrically opposite ways.
  • The importance of political orientation as a determinant of one’s interpretation of events. In this context, the operation of the motivated confirmation bias makes it easy to predict how different commentators will spin the news. It’s often possible to anticipate, before a word is spoken, what specific commentators will have to say regarding particular events.
  • Partisan commentators attempt to convince their audience that they’re presenting a balanced factual – unbiased – view. Presumably, most commentators truly believe they are unbiased and responding to events as any reasonable person would. But the fact that different commentators present such disparate views of the same reality makes it clear that they cannot all be correct.
  • Selective attention
  • Motivated confirmation bias expresses itself in selectivity: selectivity in the data one pays attention to and selectivity with respect to how one processes those data.
  • When one selectively listens only to radio stations, or watches only TV channels, that express opinions consistent with one’s own, one is demonstrating the motivated confirmation bias. When one interacts only with people of like mind, one is exercising the motivated confirmation bias. When one asks for critiques of one’s opinion on some issue of interest, but is careful to ask only people who are likely to give a positive assessment, one is doing so as well.

None of this is to suggest that the confirmation bias is unique to people of a particular partisan orientation. It is pervasive. I believe it to be active independently of one’s age, gender, ethnicity, level of intelligence, education, political persuasion or general outlook on life. If you think you’re immune to it, it is very likely that you’ve neglected to consider the evidence that you’re not.


Acknowledgement: In order to comprehend this vexing issue , I have collated /redacted information from many web writings by experts in this field. The original ideas and the papers  pertain to them and I sincerely acknowledge it. All that is in italics( Well , most part ….) is from these interesting and educative articles.