How to Choose –  SHOW NOTES

Season 3, Episode 2: Confirmation Bias

Tessa Mudge & Ken Smith


In Season 3 of How to Choose, we’re exploring the topic of thinking problems or biases that get in the way of making accurate judgements and good decisions. We’ll look at eight common problems and suggest some ways that we can reduce (but sadly not eliminate!) the impact of these problems.

In this episode we explore the common thinking problem known as ‘confirmation bias’. Confirmation bias is the tendency to pay more attention to – and give more credence to – information that supports our beliefs. In contrast, confirmation bias makes us less likely to listen to information that challenges our beliefs.


  1. You can’t completely overcome confirmation bias, but you can train yourself to pay more attention to the judgments you make.
  2. Whenever you make an assertion, or a generalisation, take a close look at it. What are you actually saying? And what data is this based on? Are you looking for data – or at least looking carefully at data – that disproves your belief?
  3. An excellent question to ask yourself is: ‘What would convince me that I was wrong?’ If your answer to this is ‘Nothing! I know I’m right!!’, then you might need to reflect a bit harder.
  4. When you ask someone for their opinion, are you really open to them disagreeing with your decision or judgment? Or are you really just hoping they’ll agree with you and tell you that you’re right?
  5. And when you do ask someone’s opinion, you’ll be more likely to get a fulsome response if you ask a neutral question such as ‘I’m not asking you to tell me what to do, but what do you think the pros and cons might be if I chose this option?’ If you ask leading, closed questions such as ‘This is a good choice isn’t it?’, or even leading, open questions such as ‘What do you think are the benefits of taking this job offer?’, you are directing the other person to focus their answer quite narrowly and they are likely to apply a ‘positive test strategy’ when answering.


We strongly recommend the book ‘The Scout Mindset’ by Julia Galef. The basic premise is that we should avoid confirmation bias and instead pursue the truth. A great read (or listen if you buy it on Audible).


Join us next episode when we look at the weighty topic (haha) of anchoring bias!

And if you’ve enjoyed the show, we’d be most grateful if you’d tell a friend (or an enemy whose behaviour you’d like to improve)!

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