How to overcome Confirmation Bias, a Cognitive Bias?

How to overcome Confirmation Bias?
What is Confirmation Bias and how to overcome it?

Updated: June 25, 2023

What is Confirmation Bias?

Confirmation bias, a psychological concept that has long held sway in human cognition, is a subtle yet persistent tug on the fabric of our belief systems. It refers to the tendency of people to favor information that confirms their preexisting beliefs or values while disregarding contradictory evidence (1). As a cognitive bias, it acts like an internal compass, inevitably guiding us toward our comfortable zones of belief.

The phenomenon of confirmation bias was first theorized by English psychologist Peter Wason in 1960 during his rule discovery task experiment (2). Though initially surprising, his findings have become one of the mainstays of cognitive psychology and decision theory. They revealed that when it comes to interpreting information, we humans have a penchant for cherry-picking – leaning more towards data that harmonizes with our preconceptions while quickly dismissing discordant information.

Should we embrace or avoid Confirmation Bias?

This raises a quandary: should we embrace or avoid confirmation bias? At first, blush, avoiding such a seemingly obstructive bias might seem wise. But it isn't entirely without its merits. It helps us create a mental model of the world, assisting us in making quick decisions in familiar situations (3). But the pitfalls of its unchecked influence can also lead to detrimental consequences such as overconfidence, ill-informed decisions, and an echo chamber effect where we only listen to opinions identical to ours.

The key is to avoid falling prey to its negative implications. Becoming aware of the existence of this bias is the first step. Regularly questioning our beliefs, seeking contradictory evidence, and stepping out of our echo chambers can help mitigate this bias (4).

How do Marketers take advantage of Confirmation Bias?

Companies and brands, recognizing the power of confirmation bias, have been known to utilize it to influence consumer behavior. A classic example is Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" campaign. By appealing to the existing perceptions of their target audience, that Macs are superior to PCs, Apple reinforced their product's positive image, further entrenching their customer base's loyalty (5).

The role our subconscious plays in confirmation bias cannot be overstated. It serves as the engine, driving us toward familiar, comfortable information. Kahneman and Tversky's work on the two-system theory of cognition suggests that our automatic, quick-to-respond System 1 brain often defaults to existing beliefs, unconsciously steering us toward confirmation bias (6).

Confirmation bias does not operate in isolation. It's connected with various other cognitive biases, such as the anchoring bias (where we overly rely on the first piece of information), the availability heuristic (relying on immediate examples that come to mind), and the Dunning-Kruger effect (overestimating our knowledge or ability) (7). The interconnectedness of these biases underscores their profound influence on our thought processes.

On the other side of the coin, the unchecked influence of confirmation bias can perpetuate stereotypes, fuel political polarization, and even lead to financial mistakes in an investment scenario. Cognitive shortcuts can blindside us to alternative viewpoints, leading us to misguided decision-making paths.

How to win over Confirmation Bias?

Actively pursuing a diverse range of information sources and opinions is one proven way to combat confirmation bias. Encouraging disagreement and debate can help to challenge ingrained perspectives (8). In an age where algorithms often reinforce our biases by providing similar content, taking proactive steps to seek out differing perspectives becomes more crucial than ever.

Brands often exploit confirmation bias to sway consumer behavior. Consider how Coke fans prefer Coke in blind taste tests or how luxury brands convince their audience that high price equates to high quality. These marketing tactics appeal directly to the consumers' established biases, subtly reinforcing brand loyalty and promoting sales (9).

What role does our subconscious play in fuelling Confirmation Bias?

Psychologists increasingly recognize the subconscious's power in driving confirmation bias. Our subconscious uses this cognitive shortcut to reduce the cognitive load, making quick decisions based on previously held beliefs. This mental mechanism, while efficient, often sidesteps critical analysis and logical reasoning.

Confirmation bias is deeply interwoven with other cognitive biases. It's closely related to the halo effect (where one's the overall impression of a person influences how we feel and think about their character), the bandwagon effect (the tendency to align our beliefs with those of the majority), and the bias blind spot (the inability to recognize our cognitive biases) (10). Understanding these intertwined biases can arm us against flawed decision-making.

In essence, confirmation bias, while an integral part of human cognition, has its share of pros and cons. It provides comfort and efficiency in decision-making but at the cost of objectivity. As we strive to navigate our lives in an increasingly complex world, understanding, recognizing, and mitigating this bias becomes ever so important. Brands, too, must use this powerful tool ethically, respecting the thin line between persuasion and manipulation.


Confirmation Bias, a relic from our psychological evolution, is a double-edged sword. Unchecked can lead us astray, but it can help us navigate familiar terrains if recognized and managed. As consumers and decision-makers, we need to understand its role in our lives and its potential use as a tool of persuasion in the hands of savvy marketers.


  1. Nickerson, R. S. (1998). Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises. Review of General Psychology, 2(2), 175–220.
  2. Wason, P. C. (1960). On the failure to eliminate hypotheses in a conceptual task. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 12(3), 129-140.
  3. Evans, J. St. B. T. (1989). Bias in human reasoning: Causes and consequences. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  4. Lilienfeld, S. O., Ammirati, R., & Landfield, K. (2009). Giving debiasing away: Can psychological research on correcting cognitive errors promote human welfare? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4(4), 390-398.
  5. Bhasin, H. (2020). What was the "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" campaign, and why was it successful? Marketing91.
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  7. Dunning, D. (2011). The Dunning–Kruger effect: On being ignorant of one's own ignorance. Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 44, pp. 247-296). Academic Press.
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  10. Pronin, E., Lin, D. Y., & Ross, L. (2002). The bias blind spot: Perceptions of bias in self versus others. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28(3), 369-381.