BEWARE THE ‘SPECIAL CASE’ – Confirmation Bias

The confirmation bias is the mother of all misconceptions. It is the tendency to interpret new information so that it becomes compatible with our existing theories, beliefs and convictions.

We have some initial thoughts, opinion on anything and we try to collect information, evidence which supports our initial thoughts. And kick out evidence which does not support our initial thoughts.

We inevitably land in communities of like-minded people, further reinforcing our convictions – and the confirmation bias. We generally like people who have similar interest as of us. So, this association will again influence our decision making. We should have people in our life who can show us the other side of the coin rather keep supporting our views. Our mind does not accept opposite views so that we have to make it habituate our mind to accept the opposite idea. 

Business – When any management makes any kind of capital allocation decision then they will start collecting information which is supporting their decision. But we should check that management get succeed who have a focus on both optimistic as well as a pessimistic result of their decision.

We have mainly seen such behaviour among the management of cyclical industries. When the business cycle starts improving, then management focuses on increasing higher capacity, disturbing balance sheet, etc. rather improve efficiency and strengthening balance sheet to be ready for an upcoming burst in the cycle. Good management focuses on increasing capacity when everyone avoids so that they can take benefits when the cycle turns to be profitable.

Investment – When we have invested in a particular company, we try to find out evidence which supports our investment, which tells us that we will gain from this investment. When we are fully invested with all our money, we work on identifying evidence which tells us that market will do well and we will earn good returns. Reversely, when we have a huge fund to get invested, we work on collecting evidence that tells us market will go down and we will get good investment opportunities. Rather falling in confirmation bias, we should try to collect positive as well as negative evidence with a neutral mind decide to continue with original thoughts or to modify or change it.

Many a time, I have seen that people get emotionally attached to their investment so that they do not want to hear anything against their investment. We have to understand that our decision does not prove to be correct every time.

We should write down our initial belief and work on collecting disconfirming evidence to our initial belief. When we have confirmed as well as disconfirming evidence then we can make wise & rational decision without getting biased. When we have invested in a particular company then we should prepare a sell report on the same company. And if we have not invested then should work on collecting evidence which tells us why we should invest at the current point of time.

This entire series will be review with various examples from books which are Thinking, Fast and Slow and The Art of Thinking Clearly.