Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the notion of human beings’ tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities. This according to the guru’s of Wikipedia.

One of my current patients is a commercial airline pilot with several years experience, who during Vision Therapy today shared his experiences in a recent class he attended specifically designed to “unplug, defunct, and/or disengage” the parts if his thinking prone to confirmation bias.  Although the topic came up during the course of a conversation which was activity specific, the thought was intriguing and he was asked to elaborate.  My patient explained while flying a plane, one must be aware of the dynamic environment, and always process each step as a mutually exclusive event which may or may not be affected by, related to, or a result of previous or future events while always maintaining a grasp of the bigger picture. As an example, he explained a procedue pilots engage in during a landing sequence whereby they check, re-check, and then crosscheck many different systems to ensure proper settings. The reason for this is many times pilots will interpret the plane’s behavior in such a way that they actually read gauges based on what they’re expecting to see based on previous experience, rather than seeing what a given reading or gaugue is actually telling them. They get three or four opportunities to be sure they interpret what they see, rather than seeing what they interpret.

Well, Mr. Pilot, let me tell you about SILO…


Many times in Vision Therapy we work against confirmation bias, whether we know it or not. As indicated, SILO versus SOLI seems to be an easier example to identify.  SILO is, of course, the interpretation of visual input as it overrides logical input and SOLI is the inverse. Makes sense, but then I started to really think about it.

I need to get a life, I know 🙂

Confirmation bias is everywhere in my Vision Therapy room and I’ll bet, it’s in yours, too. Most spatial awareness acitivities are looking for the difference between the space we see and the space we think we see. We may think it will take us 8 steps to get across the room and therefore we convince ourselves it’s really 8 steps, giving very little consideration to other ideas which may be more spatially sound.  We may convince ourselves certain attribute blocks fit within a given category based on previous encounters, while given little or no credence to other possibilities which may be worthy of consideration…and the list goes on!

One of the many lessons Harry Wachs taught during his seminars in San Diego was lateral thinking, or perhaps more easily understood as thinking outside the box. The idea seems not only to be the antidote to confirmation bias, it also ensures we consider any solution, no matter how silly, ridiculous, or absurd it may seem at it’s birth. Today was a good reminder of how far reaching those concepts are, and served as a window into the lives of other professionals who utilize such thinking on a daily basis to ensure the lives and safety of those they are responsible for during flight!

Pretty cool!



Posted on February 14, 2017, in From My Perspective.... Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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