This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 15 table of contents.

Confirmation Bias

One factor leading to self-fulfilling prophecies in social situations is that people tend to seek and remember information that confirms their expectations. This is called confirmation bias. If a person has a stereotyped or prejudiced view of another person, evidence that supports this prejudiced view will be noticed and remembered, while evidence that contradicts expectations will be discounted and forgotten.

What is confirmation bias"? How could confirmation bias occur in the workplace?

Confirmation bias helps create self-fulfilling prophecies in the workplace. For example, suppose an employer had the opinion that a person formerly on welfare was likely to be irresponsible if given a job. That employer might have a confirmation bias, so any example of irresponsible behavior in such a person would be noticed and emphasized, while any positive or responsible behavior might be ignored or discounted. In the end, the person may be fired from the job after a few problems. Someone else who had the same problems, but was not expected to have problems, might not be fired.

How did student interviewers show confirmation bias?

Higgins and Bargh (1987) reviewed a wide range of studies showing confirmation bias. For example, in a study by Snyder and Swann (1978), college students were asked to interview other students. First they were provided with information about the other student. Some were told the other student was extroverted (outgoing and sociable) while some were told the other student was introverted (shy or turned inward). The results of the interview tended to confirm these expectations, although in reality the descriptions were matched randomly to the students being interviewed. The interviewers simply found what they expected to find.

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