Don’t Get Played by Your Own Brain: The Confirmation Bias

Human beings may be the only animals capable of reasoning, but we still suffer from the occasional gap in our logic. Since our job at is to critically evaluate products, it’s necessary to constantly remind ourselves of some widespread errors in human thinking so we can avoid these pitfalls. There’s nothing like a long list of common cognitive biases, fallacies, and misconceptions to crush some misplaced hubris in your decision making or opinions. Even without having to navigate a sea of marketing propaganda, the conscientious consumer still has some hard decisions to make. So we’ve decided to illuminate some common errors in thinking to help you make the big moves.

Don't get cocky. Remember where you came from.

Confirmation bias is one of the most treacherous flaws in human thought, since it features an person actually looking for information, which seems like a good thing. But while it's good to research (thank you for visiting!), searching “does Fujifilm make the best cameras” is simply not effective. Instead of an objective, comprehensive answer to your question, you’re probably only going to find a narrow selection of “evidence” confirming up your dubious claim because of these search terms.

However, it's still better than asking "why does Fujifilm make the best cameras." In general, a choir looking for a preacher might miss some other important input. If you really want to know if Fujifilm makes the best camera, a better, more open question would be "who makes the best camera." If you're trying to be objective, try not to roll loaded dice.

Best? Not best? You're not going to find out if you think you already know.

People can still fall prey to confirmation bias even if they’ve had the scruple to select a wider array of information than that which would only yield a confirmation. It’s very well documented that a person will tend to have some sort of sentimental attachment to their first opinion, even if the second more-cogent opinion is offered. It’s not necessarily stubbornness, it's just that it can feel like a lot of work to change your mind.

This mental inertia is even worse for anything emotional. Say your grandmother always told you that KitchenAid ranges were the best at boiling. If it turned out that they performed terribly in our tests, you might find yourself groping for reasons to let them off the hook. Be careful of this one, if you’ve been a loyal customer.

When actual data is available, it's a good idea to disregard the preconceptions.

Other forms of the confirmation bias may not be as relevant to considering products, but they’re pretty interesting. Even if you’re attempting to be objective, gathering a wide variety of evidence, research has shown that people’s memories recall certain preferred evidence better than the rest. Apparently, there’s also something called the “Backfire Effect” when a person doubles down on their original position in the face of contrary evidence.

While it’s especially prudent to recognize the confirmation bias if you’re even slightly loyal to a brand, this logic pitfall can trap any consumer. If you’re a human, you’re not immune to this brain glitch, but if you’re keep reminding yourself of this fact, you’ll do alright. Warren Buffett did.

Caveat emptor.

[Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and]

TAGS: brainstorming caveat emptor

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