Experiment shows the weight of confirmation bias

  • Thread starter SGT
  • Start date
SGT

Main Question or Discussion Point

A recent experiment shows how people can be fooled and see patterns where there is none.
The subjects were to play a computer game and score points. Unbeknownst to them, the points were attributed randomly.
A group scored 33% of the time and the other 66%. After the experiment, the participants were asked to suggest winning strategies for new players. All of them, even those that scored poorly, were able to make suggestions.
That is what happens in most paranormal experiences. People think they see causality between phenomena, even if there is nothing.
This is not a proof that paranormal phenomena don't exist, but shows how much we must take care in order to not confound correlation with causality.
 

Answers and Replies

856
2
SGT said:
That is what happens in most paranormal experiences.
Im afraid this statement is not backed up by the results of that experiment.
 
SGT
PIT2 said:
Im afraid this statement is not backed up by the results of that experiment.
Could you elaborate on that?
 
Pengwuino
Gold Member
4,854
14
What does making suggestions have to do with paranormal activity?
 
6,171
1,275
Pengwuino said:
What does making suggestions have to do with paranormal activity?
"Making suggestions" meant the people in the study were convinced they had percieved a winning strategy. In fact, no such strategy existed. The game was rigged to be random.
SGT said:
That is what happens in most paranormal experiences. People think they see causality between phenomena, even if there is nothing.
One example of this I can think of is when a person sees what they assume to be a ghost in a house, and then goes looking for someone in the house' history who is dead and may fit the "apparition". If they find someone who seems to fit, it confirms their belief they've seen a ghost.
 
Pengwuino
Gold Member
4,854
14
Well how is that paranormal? Just sounds like impressionable humans being fooled with.
 
6,171
1,275
Pengwuino said:
Well how is that paranormal?
How is what paranormal?
 
Pengwuino
Gold Member
4,854
14
SGT said:
That is what happens in most paranormal experiences.
grrr, message too short >:(
 
1,120
7
I also fail to see a how people developing a winning strategy{either useful or not} has to do with the paranormal. I see nothing to suggest that it does.
 
6,171
1,275
hypatia said:
I also fail to see a how people developing a winning strategy{either useful or not} has to do with the paranormal. I see nothing to suggest that it does.
confirmation bias
Address:http://skepdic.com/confirmbias.html

You don't see confirmation bias at work in any explorations of the paranormal?
 
Last edited:
Pengwuino
Gold Member
4,854
14
Oh so we're talking about how we percieve possible paranormal activity. I thought you were trying to say confirmation bias is somehow related to actual paranormal activity.
 
6,171
1,275
Pengwuino said:
Oh so we're talking about how we percieve possible paranormal activity.
This is correct.

I didn't find SGTs transition from one to the other to be nearly as obscure as other people did:

That is what happens in most paranormal experiences. People think they see causality between phenomena, even if there is nothing.
Perhaps I'm more used to his writing style, though.
 
hypnagogue
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,221
2
I'd agree that confirmation bias probably plays a role in many reports of paranormal phenomena. However, I'm not sure the referenced study is the best means of demonstrating confirmation bias. In a way, the experiment seems rigged (beningly) to creating confirmation bias. It depends on how exactly the subject tasks were conducted and what questions they were asked, but it looks like there might be a priming effect here. If a subject participates in a study like this where he is given a task to do and then asked to derive relavent rules, he might expect that such rules already exist, and thus be more likely to look for and produce them.
 
6,171
1,275
hypnagogue said:
It depends on how exactly the subject tasks were conducted and what questions they were asked, but it looks like there might be a priming effect here. If a subject participates in a study like this where he is given a task to do and then asked to derive relavent rules, he might expect that such rules already exist, and thus be more likely to look for and produce them.
It seems to me, though, that just such priming takes place outside the lab all the time in the form of paranormal lore. People are primed to explore a paranormal explanation for a certain class of strange experiences, by stories that are passed around, movies, and books.
 
hypnagogue
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
2,221
2
zoobyshoe said:
It seems to me, though, that just such priming takes place outside the lab all the time in the form of paranormal lore. People are primed to explore a paranormal explanation for a certain class of strange experiences, by stories that are passed around, movies, and books.
Quite true.
 
SGT
Pengwuino said:
What does making suggestions have to do with paranormal activity?
I am reading your post only now. Zoobieshoe has beaten me in the explanations. He has understood my post and the objective of the experiment.
The experiment has nothing to do with paranormality. It only intended to show that people are prone to the Post Hoc fallacy: if an event follows some other, people tend to attribute a relationship of cause and effect between them. In the experiment people scored after taking some action, so they concluded that the action caused the scoring.
In the same way, you have a dream that you remember in the morning. In one day, one week, or a month, something happens that seems to confirm your dream. So, you think you had a prophetic dream.
I apologize if my original post was not clear enough. English is only my third language, so I don't ever expose my reasoning in a clear manner.
 
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,093
174
zoobyshoe said:
It seems to me, though, that just such priming takes place outside the lab all the time in the form of paranormal lore. People are primed to explore a paranormal explanation for a certain class of strange experiences, by stories that are passed around, movies, and books.
Yes, and in many cases the interpretations are reasonble considering the experiences claimed, but there is no doubt: Most people don't make good scientists.

I know of a guy who prays to Thor. I met another who thought he was a chicken. I met another guy who thought every plane seen was a UFO, but these are hardly fair examples of the average person. Heck, I know of one guy who fell for the "I am from Venus" line. :biggrin:
 
Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,093
174
hypnagogue said:
Quite true.
However the context for each of the two situations is completely different. Most people don't believe everything that they read or hear, but I think most would be led to particular expectations in a clinical setting.
 

Related Threads for: Experiment shows the weight of confirmation bias

Replies
6
Views
2K
  • Last Post
6
Replies
140
Views
10K
Replies
1
Views
511
Replies
8
Views
857
Replies
21
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
21
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
22
Views
3K
  • Last Post
33
Replies
809
Views
48K
Top