Confirmation bias is a tendency of people to prefer information that reinforces a thought or believe that they have. People demonstrate this bias when they retain information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotional issues and for deeply rooted beliefs. (Science Daily)
There are many everyday examples of people using confirmation bias behavior. A student doing research on only one side to an argument for a paper to confirm their thesis may fail to fully search the topic for information that is inconsistent with what they are writing about.
Also a reporter who is writing an article on an important issue may only interview experts that support his or her view on the issue. Confirmation bias is also very common when consumers make a purchase. (Raymond, 1998)
Personally, I have seen consumers with a confirmation bias plenty of times. Since I was sixteen, I have been working in retail.
This has given me plenty of opportunities to observe confirmation bias in a consumer’s behavior. Recently, I had to deal with a customer who had strong beliefs about her knowledge on clothing quality. A few months ago at my job, The Children’s Place in the North Shore Mall, I had a customer asking for a particular brand for children’s workout apparel. After I told her we did not carry the brand she was looking for, she was very upset. She was convinced that this brand had quality worth the extra money she spent, which was a lot.
I offered her the option to just look at the clothing we offered, but it was not up to par with what she was used to getting.
In the end, she bought the clothing from The Children’s Place because she desperately needed gym clothes for her daughter the following day. After finishing the transaction, I was satisfied that I finalized the purchase and changed her biased view of only purchasing from this expensive brand. Not even a week later, the same woman came in to return everything she had bought. When I asked why she was making the return she simply said quality. She then pointed at the stitching on the yoga pants and said the threading was loose, when in fact it was perfectly fine; we never have complaints on how the yoga pants are made. Her daughter loved the fit, color, and style, but I could tell the woman was over examining the product to justify her reasoning for buying this expensive brand.
There are many effects of confirmation bias. Primarily with this example, the woman was losing a lot of money. She was creating a fictional experience where clothing did not live up to the quality she expected. A pair of yoga pants at The Children’s Place is $12 while the other brand is around $30. Every time she makes a purchase, she spends double the amount of money than she would have. Within a year, that adds up to be a lot of extra spending. Personally, I see confirmation bias the most within a person who has a brand loyalty. Even if the alternative is exactly the same and cheaper, consumers will pay to have that brand name stitched on their clothing because of their perceived benefits.
In another aspect, an effect could be the opposite of brand loyalty where customers buy the cheapest alternative of a product. An issue with this would be that the customer may not get the quality they should get because they are always looking for the best deal. When making a purchase, there are certain items that should be purchased at top dollar instead of a bargain. An example of these products would be a car, a house, computers, or any electronics. The confirmation bias also affected her perspective of The Children’s Place. She created a belief on false premises making claims that were not true. She created a vague hypothesis in her mind and because of her actions it was enough evidence to prove her hypothesis to be true.
When it comes to making a purchase, there are some ways to reduce a confirmation bias. For starters, a person can try their best to set equal standards for all evidence regardless of whether or not it supports or challenges their current view. A person should always be open to changing their mind. On a personal level, a person can reduce a bias by slowing their thinking process down. Instead of going with their gut feeling to buy a product right away, they can take the chance to shop around. It can make a person more moderate and can have them start doubting their initial beliefs and start seeing the other side of the argument. People can make an effort to overcome the confirmation bias by deliberately seeking evidence that contradicts their own viewpoints.
In all, I believe every person is a perpetrator at some point when it comes to using a confirmation bias. We all second guess ourselves and try to convince ourselves that we made the best decision possible in our actions. It is a bias that we are all guilty of, but it is important to be aware of one’s biases instead of becoming ignorant.
Nickerson, R. (1998). Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitous Phenomenon in Many Guises. Review of General Psychology, 2, 175-220. Retrieved February 6, 2013 Science Daily. Confirmation Bias. Science Daily: News & Articles in Science, Health, ]Environment & Technology. Retrieved February 8, 2013