Confirmation bias


Confirmation bias is a cognitive bias where individuals tend to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information that confirms their existing beliefs or hypotheses.

Essentially, it’s the tendency to selectively perceive information in a way that reinforces one’s preconceptions or hypotheses, while disregarding or downplaying contradictory evidence.


This bias can influence various aspects of decision-making, problem-solving, and reasoning. It can lead individuals to seek out sources of information that align with their existing views, ignore or dismiss opposing viewpoints, and interpret ambiguous evidence in a way that supports their beliefs.


Confirmation bias presents a risk to business leaders. However, it can be overcome by removing default options. When we are short on time and under pressure, it can be tempting to go with “the usual option”. However, this reinforces groupthink and encourages the management team to go with the default option. Managers can overcome this by asking, “if we hadn’t already taken this decision, what would we decide to do if we started again from scratch.”


Good managers overcome confirmation bias by encouraging dissent. Encourage your colleagues to come up with objections. Invite them to raise their concerns and thank them for doing so. If you and your colleagues develop some healthy disagreement, better decisions will be made as a result.


However, dissent is difficult to encourage if it involves challenging senior colleagues. In order to get around this, hierarchies need to be flattened. Senior managers can help to do this by encouraging junior colleagues to speak first in meetings, so they don’t simply anchor their views to those of their boss. By holding back, the more senior leaders can allow new ideas to be shared and this can result in new, innovative approaches.


Confirmation bias can be engrained in a management team but taking the time to recognise our biases and then making small changes like those outlined above can help to overcome them.