Confirmation Bias Really Kills Thinking

dru-the-definition-of-confirmation-biasConfirmation Bias Really Kills Thinking

by TeachThought Staff

The definition of confirmation bias is the tendency of people to overvalue data that supports their own beliefs.

Nobody likes to be wrong. The typical pattern is to form a theory based on insufficient data (e.g., that students do or don’t understand, that technology is good or bad, that your principal picks on you), and then restrict further analysis to identifying data that fits that theory.

Also factoring in is the challenge of cognitive dissonance–holding two competing beliefs at once. This is uncomfortable, so we cling to one and pitch the other, then scour data to prove that we are right. This can result in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, where you essentially will your biases and insecurities into existence.

Which is as crappy as it sounds.

The following video is a great example of confirmation bias. Is this something you’re guilty of as a teacher? How about your students–do they collect data and form theories, or the other way around?

(And they are forming and testing theories in your English-Language Arts, Math, Science, History, and other classrooms, yes?)

The definition of confirmation bias; Confirmation Bias Really Kills Thinking; image attribution flickr user dru


  • This article should be a must read for all educators. Personally, I find as long as I am diligent about reading various blogs ( I use the Teach 100 blog list as a guide) and occasionally commenting on both articles that I agree with and those that I disagree with helps me from falling into this trap. When I go through this process of opinion expression, it helps for me to see various aspects of different learning theories/opinions. I am also able to formulate my response at my leisure, which has proven to be a valuable exercise when I am put on the spot by a parent, administration, or even a co-worker.

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