The Gift and Curse of Confirmation Bias: Part I | Podcast



In this series, I am going to explore the gift and curse of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias can be both a (1) nuisance to your research and decision-making process, as well as (2) a tool to help you improve marketing content and optimize conversions.

In this episode I’ll start with the CURSE. Specifically, I’ll start off by defining confirmation bias. Then go into methods you can use to remove or diminish confirmation bias from your process. In part 2, I’ll move on to the GIFT of confirmation bias. I’ll review some of the ways you can use confirmation bias to optimize landing pages and marketing messaging.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek and interpret information that confirms one’s beliefs and preconceived notions. It’s a type of cognitive and selection bias that reinforces our beliefs, our perspective, the lens in which we view the world.

So how do we guard against confirmation bias in our research and decision-making? (6:40)

  • Well, like any other problem, we first have to recognize that there is a problem. We have to recognize our own confirmation biases. Our assumptions.
  • Disconfirmation – actively seek out evidence contrary to preconceived notions.
  • Speak to people who have oppositional points of view and listen with the intent to understand reasoning and avoid the impulse of not to argue your point
  • If the aforementioned is not feasible for whatever reason, you want to start to think about brining in an objective third-party to help you. Consultants can be a good resource when confirmation bias begins to cloud decision-making. Consultants should be staunch contrarians to accepted thought (tactfully and within reason of course). Sometimes fresh eyes lead to fresh perspectives.

One approach that you can use to help guard against confirmation bias. It’s called the Six Thinking Hats. Six Thinking Hats was introduced in 1985 by Edward de Bono. It’s a technique used to look at decision-making from multiple perspectives.

Let’s explore Six Thinking Hats using types of thinking: (10:04)

  • White Hat – this is your research hat; you focus on gaps in your knowledge and try to fill them with data and information.
  • Red Hat – with this hat you use your intuition, gut, and emotion to evaluate a decision. This is cathartic and allows us to release the emotional and sometimes irrational part of our beliefs so that we can focus on the rationale in the next hat.
  • Black Hat – with this hat, you focus on negative outcomes; Here you expose the assumptions in your thinking. The black hat helps you combat against confirmation bias by actively pursuing the opposite of what you expect to happen.
  • Yellow Hat – this is the optimistic hat; here you focus on the best-case scenario for what you expect to happen.
  • Green Hat – this is the ‘creative’ hat, where you think about out-of-the-box solutions and not idea is criticized.
  • Blue Hat – finally, with the blue hat you focus on the process of collating all of research into direction and action.

There are tons of other techniques that you can use to combat confirmation bias. That said, they all have in common the requirement to challenge preconceived beliefs. In summary:

  • Recognize that bias exists
  • Actively seek out discordant information (and write down as soon as you can)
  • Understand oppositional reasoning
  • Hire an objective third-party

Rashard Spiller

Rashard is the founder of Userempathy, a startup marketing research and analytics consultancy. When Rashard is not building personas and implementing web analytics on behalf of his clients, he can be found at home driving his wife nuts with Yoda-speak.