The Power (and Danger) of Confirmation Bias

If you’re visiting this website, you might already be familiar with the concept of confirmation bias: We seek facts, stats and opinions that prove our hypothesis or our preconceptions.

For example:

• The person we hired is doing a fantastic job.

• The program we launched is performing exactly as intended.

• The product our team created is adding what we thought it would to our market share.

But confirmation bias also can lead to poor decision-making, because it provides people with all the reasons to support their own claims and aims, with nothing to refute. If you’re attempting to ethically win the heart and mind of your persuasion target, you must do your due diligence. Look at all relevant data sets to make sure that what you’re proposing is the right thing to do. Once you’re convinced that your proposal is best for your target, for you and the surrounding situation, acknowledge the bias.

Leveraging confirmation bias in persuasion can sound like this:

When we started this project, I wanted things to work out with the proposed new vendor. Much like the researcher who tries to prove his hypothesis, I looked for reasons we should partner with this company. I looked at locale, capacity and all of the things that company does well. And that’s exactly what I found: reasons why we should partner.  

But we’d be fooling ourselves if we didn’t do our due diligence and ask if we’re not falling prey to a confirmation bias by only seeing what we want to see. We should spend a little more time considering this carefully and perhaps have a few others who aren’t as close to the project take a look. 

If you approach persuasion in this manner, you’ll be seen as intelligent, honest and a person of integrity. Why? Because you are.

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