Thinking Economics

Thinking Economics

Most human behaviour can be viewed through an economic lens to identify trends, patterns, biases and misconceptions. This column assesses Nigerian behaviour by applying Economics to behaviour and behaviour to Economics.

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Confirmation Bias: When Seeing Isn't Believing

Chuba Ezekwesili

Chuba Ezekwesili

Chuba is a data analyst & the co-founder of Akanka - a global design firm.

The latest news shows how your friend was wrong and you were right. You were right about the bad driver being a woman. You were right about your analysis of what started the Biafran war. You were right about the power privatisation being a scam. One thing perturbs you though… while you tend to find yourself right about these things, others seem to have opposing opinions and you can’t seem to understand how they don’t see the errors of their ways.

What causes this?
Nobel price winner, Daniel Kahneman calls this 'Confirmation Bias'. Confirmation bias is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions. It lets you create your own pattern, your own structure, your own way of viewing the world.

What’s the underlying cause behind this effect?
It is because humans love patterns. Patterns give us a sense of direction and provide meaning to a world full of randomness. Also, patterns kept us alive in the past. They let humans know what time to plant, migrate, how to avoid dangers, etc. However, this same ability makes it easy for us to fall prey to the fallacy of creating our own patterns when they do not exist or ignoring every other information that fails to adhere to the patterns we see.

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