Belief-Bias vs Confirmation bias

Belief-bias and Confirmation bias are both terms related to cognitive psychology. We will explain in very detail with example.

What is Confirmation bias in psychology?

Confirmation bias describes the tendency to search for information that supports one’s initial view. When people have expectations about a particular person, they address few questions to that person and hence acquire relatively little information that could disprove their assumptions (Trope & Thompson, 1997). 

Confirmation bias examples

People may also ask questions that are designed to confirm their expectations, which protects them from gaining and using disconfirming information. 

So, if you are meeting a person from Canada for the first time, you might ask him about his love of ice hockey and cold weather, whereas if you are meeting a person from Mexico for the first time, you might ask him or her about his or her love of spicy foods and festive music. Do you see the confirmation bias at work here?

We also ignore information that disputes our expectations. We are more likely to remember (and repeat) stereotype-consistent information and to forget or ignore stereotype-inconsistent information, which is one-way stereotypes are maintained even in the face of disconfirming evidence (Lyons & Kashima, 2003; O’Sullivan & Durso, 1984). 

If you learn that your new Canadian friend hates hockey and loves sailing, and that your new Mexican friend hates spicy foods and loves rap music, you are less likely to remember this new stereotype-inconsistent information.

What’s the good news? People who are unprejudiced pay more attention to stereotype-disconfirming information than stereotype-confirming information (Wyer, 2004). 

In one study, participants read four brief descriptions of a target person, and then selected one person to learn more about in a subsequent task.

Some of these descriptions included stereotypical information (e.g., a Black person who is uneducated and has a job doing menial labor). Others included information that disconfirmed stereotypes (e.g., a Black person who is educated and has a White-collar job). 

Of those who were unprejudiced (as assessed by scores on a racism scale), 68% chose to receive more information about a stereotype disconfirming person. Of participants who were prejudiced, 77% chose to receive more information about a person who was stereotype-confirming. 

People who are unprejudiced also make different attributions for behavior—seeing stereotype-confirming behavior as situational rather than internal, and stereotype-disconfirming behavior as dispositional.

The belief-bias

What is belief-bias in psychology? The belief-bias effect occurs when we accept only the evidence that conforms to their belief, rejecting or ignoring any evidence that does not. 

The belief-bias examples

For example, in a classic study conducted by Warren Jones and Dan Russell (1980), ESP believers and ESP disbelievers watched two attempts at telepathic communication.

In each attempt, a “receiver” tried to indicate what card the “sender” was holding. In reality, both attempts were rigged.

One attempt was designed to appear to be a successful demonstration of telepathy, with a significant number of accurate responses. The other attempt was designed to convincingly demonstrate failure. In this case, the number of accurate guesses was no more than a chance and could be produced by simple random guessing.

Following the demonstration, the participants were asked what they believed had taken place. Both believers and disbelievers indicated that ESP had occurred in the successful attempt. 

But only the believers said that ESP had also taken place in the clearly unsuccessful attempt. In other words, the ESP believers ignored or discounted the evidence in the failed attempt. This is the essence of the belief-bias effect.

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Cherry, K. (2020, February 19). Observations by Psychologists

Hockenbury, D. H., & Hockenbury, S. E. (2010). Psychology. New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

Language and Thought (Chapter 7)

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