sarahmichigan: (Default)
[personal profile] sarahmichigan
"Confirmation Bias" is not, strictly speaking, one of the logical fallacies often listed in a logic class. It is, however, an example of sort of illogical thought-pattern or selective thinking.

If you only notice the anecdotal evidence that supports your theory but don't pay attention to incidents that disprove your theory about how something works, you're falling into the illogical trap of "confirmation bias." This is the sort of illogical thinking that makes people believe that people get crazier during the full moon or makes people remember their predictive dreams that "come true" while completely discounting the ten previous dreams that didn't "come true."

I find this phenomenon fascinating, because I notice that even highly-intelligent, highly-educated people who understand the scientific method clearly and are skeptical of other people's superstitious tendencies (and I include myself here) often fall into this trap.

Watch out for lunatics.

Date: 2007-04-02 03:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
BTW, it's the full moon tonight. ;)

Date: 2007-04-02 04:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Years ago, OMNI magazine had an article on people who believe in dowsing. The people were asked, if a quarter is flipped in the air, and someone guessed whether it would land heads or tails, what the odds that that person would be right "just out of chance." The average response was somewhere around 20%, IIRC. The authors' point was that it's not that the people are perceiving different events, but rather that they have a poor understanding of chance, and that therefore they're impressed by things they mathematically shouldn't be impressed by (like someone predicting which side will land up 50% of the time).

Granted, the article itself suffered from a fallacy of its own (hasty generalization?), since they were implying general conclusions based on a small sample size, but it was still interesting. :)

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