In this increasingly global and complex world in which we live, our capacity to process information objectively, and to separate fact from fiction, or recognise the grey which exists all around us, is challenged as never before. The biggest hurdle to objective thinking is what we call confirmation bias, and it may well be the most significant contributor to misinformation, disagreement and conflict in the world today. As we traverse the complex web of information that surrounds us daily, it’s crucial to recognise and combat this cognitive pitfall.

In this blog, we’ll delve into the intricacies of confirmation bias, exploring its roots, impact, and strategies to overcome it.

What is Confirmation Bias?

Confirmation bias is a cognitive phenomenon where individuals tend to favour information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs or values. In simple terms, we have a natural inclination to seek out, interpret, believe (without any fact-checking) and remember information that aligns with what we already believe, or what we want to believe. At the same time, we ignore or assume to be incorrect (again, without fact-checking) any information that challenges or rejects what we believe or want to believe.

This subconscious tendency can have profound implications on the way we view the world and the events around us, our relationships, and our thinking processes, hindering the pursuit of unbiased and well-informed perspectives, decision-making and behaviours.

Roots of Confirmation Bias

Understanding confirmation bias requires a peek into our evolutionary history. Early humans relied on quick judgments and generalisations to survive in a hostile environment. Imagine walking through the forest, and suddenly finding yourself confronted by a type of snake that you haven’t seen before. There is no time to decide whether this snake is safe or is out to hurt you. Unconsciously, you know that some snakes are dangerous, so you assume immediately that this snake is also dangerous (which it may or may not be) and act accordingly (fight or flight – attack the snake or get out of there as quickly as you can). In this instance, our bias towards what we already believe helps keep us safe.

While this instinct served us well in the primitive world, where we encountered physical threats on a regular basis, it can lead to flawed thinking in today’s complex and information-saturated society.

Our brains are wired to seek coherence and consistency in our beliefs. When we encounter information that challenges our existing views, there’s a cognitive discomfort that arises, which we call cognitive dissonance. This is a discomfort we often strive to avoid. This avoidance can manifest in various ways, from selectively choosing news sources to engaging in discussions only with like-minded individuals.

Impact on Thinking, Relationships and Decision-Making

Confirmation bias can infiltrate various aspects of our lives, from personal relationships to professional endeavours. Picking and choosing what information we accept as true and what we believe to be false has a huge impact on our worldview, which in turn can influence who we want to spend our time with, and our relationships with those who don’t share our views. If our confirmation bias has led us to an incorrect interpretation of information or events, then our relationships might suffer on the back of incorrect assumptions or information.

When it comes to decision-making, this bias can lead us down a path of poor choices and missed opportunities. It narrows our perspective, limiting our ability to consider alternative viewpoints and make well-rounded decisions.

For example, imagine a business executive reviewing a proposal for an initiative that they have been strongly supportive of. If they approach the proposal with preconceived notions about its potential for success, they may overlook critical details that show risks that in a subjective review process, might lead to the proposal not going ahead. This bias is particularly dangerous in situations that demand objectivity and open-mindedness.

We can see that not only can confirmation impact the way we view and relate to the world and the people around us in a broad sense, it can also have a critical impact in leadership and communication in the workplace. It is no surprise that all the research tells us that the more diverse an organisation, the more successful it is. Having a range of views helps establish a space for critical thinking, and helps overcome the trap of confirmation bias.

Strategies to Overcome Confirmation Bias

Recognising and mitigating confirmation bias is a crucial step towards fostering a more rational and informed mindset. Here are some strategies to help break free from the shackles of this cognitive trap:

1. Diversify Your Information Sources

To counter confirmation bias, consciously expose yourself to a variety of perspectives. Follow news outlets, authors, and experts with diverse opinions. This broadens your information base and helps in developing a more comprehensive understanding of any given topic.

2. Challenge Your Beliefs

Actively question your own beliefs and assumptions. When presented with new information, instead of instinctively accepting or rejecting it, take a moment to critically evaluate its validity. Go as far as to try to prove the opposite of what you believe; we’ll often be surprised what what we find. Embrace the discomfort that may come with challenging your own views – it’s a sign of intellectual growth.

3. Encourage Constructive Debate

Surround yourself with individuals who hold different perspectives. Engage in respectful and constructive debates that encourage the exploration of diverse ideas. This not only helps in uncovering blind spots but also fosters an environment where intellectual growth is prioritised.

4. Mindful Decision-Making

Be aware of your decision-making processes. When faced with choices, consciously evaluate whether your decisions are influenced by confirmation bias. By developing mindfulness in your decision-making, you can gradually reduce the impact of cognitive biases on your choices.

In summary

Confirmation bias is a pervasive aspect of human cognition, but armed with awareness and proactive strategies, we can navigate through its maze. Embracing diversity in information, challenging our own beliefs, fostering constructive debates, and practicing mindful decision-making are crucial steps in cultivating a more objective and informed mindset. As we strive to become better decision-makers and critical thinkers, acknowledging and addressing confirmation bias is a powerful tool in our cognitive arsenal.

If you or your team would benefit from a better understanding, and capacity to overcome, confirmation bias, please book in for a free, no obligation Discovery Session, email us at, or call us on +61 412 403 373. We’d love to chat with you!