Bleg: Studies of Confirmation Bias in Different Groups?

November 25th, 2011

It’s no secret that humans are prone to confirmation bias: adopt a belief, then go seek out evidence that supports it. Rafts of books, articles, and blog posts have been published on the subject, over many decades.

But so far (I haven’t searched comprehensively, by any means) I’ve been disappointed because they all tend to say “we all do this.”

Yes, of course, true. But there are matters of degree.

It seems equally obvious that some people do it more than others.

Are certain groups more prone to it? Has anybody studied this? How have those studies been crafted, or how would they be crafted?

Any leads much appreciated.

You know me, of course: my pretense of objective curiosity is simply a smoke-screen hiding my real effort — to find confirmation for my existing belief that Republicans/conservatives are more prone to confirmation bias than Democrats/liberals.

But I’m also just darned curious. Really.

  1. Foppe
    November 25th, 2011 at 12:33 | #1

    I’m sure intellectually lazy people set lower standards, and given that I’ve yet to encounter more than one libertarian whose arguments aren’t big enough to drive trucks through, I suspect there is more laziness on the right (division of the spoils: ‘you get the arguments, we get the money’). This is quite neatly explained in this post by Mark Ames:
    Also sort of relevant (though I cannot supply you with anything better than anecdotal evidence given by self-appointed observers of human nature, sorry):

  2. 2slugbaits
    November 26th, 2011 at 08:53 | #2

    See this paper:

    The particular topic is outcome bias with respect to the way NFL coaches alter game strategies based on statistically insignificant outcome differences (i.e., small wins/small losses). The methodology can obviously be applied to more serious subjects even though the specific subject here is somewhat whimsical.

  3. November 26th, 2011 at 09:28 | #3


    Ames is hilarious. Never read him before (now multiply-RSSed). Laugh-out-loud lines include:

    “Jefferson was an imbecile. He should have been a folk singer, not a Founding fucking Father.”
    “You’re supposed to be two-faced free-market liars, not libertarian Quakers!”

    But no, doesn’t help in my quest…

  4. November 26th, 2011 at 09:30 | #4

    Thanks for this. Interesting. But it’s actually the reverse of what I’m looking for — coaches changed their beliefs *more* when they got negative results. (In this case, more than they should have, “rationally.”)

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