Wason's Wisdom

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Of all the concepts we have studied in introductory psychology, one small little tidbit really stuck with me. Very early on in the class we learned about thinking scientifically and different biases that are very likely to be present in just about everyone. I am especially interested in the confirmation bias. The confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out evidence that supports our beliefs and/or dismiss evidence that contradicts the solution we are seeking. Upon reading about the confirmation bias for the first time, I had to stop for a moment to really let it all sink in. The only thought that went through my head after careful consideration was, "It all makes sense now". I instantly knew that I had certainly experience the confirmation bias both in and out of science classes over the years, I just hadn't realized that it was a regular psychological concept.
The confirmation bias is shown wonderfully through Wason's Selection Task. The task is simple: there are four cards on a table. Two cards show letters: one a vowel, one a noun. The other two cards show numbers: one odd, one even. Then, you are asked to prove the statement, "If a card has a vowel on one side, then it has an odd number on the other side." You are only allowed to choose two cards to flip in order to prove the aforementioned hypothesis. The first instinctual choice tends to be flipping the vowel and the odd number. However, this actually cannot prove the hypothesis because you don't know if the even number shown has a vowel or a consonant on the other side. Upon falling for Wason's test, I realized just how prevalent the confirmation bias can be in our daily lives. Knowing what I do now, there's no way I can ever go back to blindly favoring one option because it supports my thoughts.

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This page contains a single entry by deav0010 published on December 4, 2011 11:14 PM.

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