Ghost Hunters are Victims of Confirmation Bias

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In the last couple years there have been a series of new ghost and paranormal TV shows. I find the shows interesting, but I am also a skeptic. Lilienfeld pointed out in our book the concept of Confirmation Bias and I believe the hosts/viewers of these shows have fallen victim to it.

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Confirmation bias as defined by Lilienfeld is "The tendency to seek out evidence that supports our beliefs and deny, dismiss, or distort evidence that contradicts them."

In the case of Ghost Hunters the hosts of the shows tend to point out the smallest anomalies on audio and videotapes. Most of these video anomalies can be explained by lens defects, dust, and digital malfunctions. The hosts however, take what can be explained by normal incidents and present the "evidence" as proof that ghosts exist because it supports their beliefs.

The hosts are also showing signs of overconfidence by thinking that their video and audio evidence is perfect proof that paranormal events exist. In reality many more tests especially in controlled situations would need to be conducted.

Although it is obvious to me that the hosts have become victims of confirmation bias I am not sure how they could test their beliefs in paranormal activities. Part of their belief is that paranormal activities can only happen in specific locations. By conducting an experiment in a location that is rumored to be haunted brings in bias to the experiment.

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Seems to me that the principle of extraordinary claims would apply here as well...

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This page contains a single entry by skult001 published on September 30, 2011 9:09 PM.

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