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HLS 280: Confirmation Bias

What is Confirmation Bias?

Confirmation bias is the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one's beliefs.

Tips for Avoiding Confirmation Bias in Searches

1. Avoid asking questions or using terms that imply a certain answer. For example if you search "Did the Holocaust really happen?" you are implying that it is likely that the Holocaust was faked. If you want information on the Holocaust, it's better to start with a simple search of "Holocaust." 

Likewise, if you search "women 72 cents on the dollar," you 'll get articles that tell you women make 72 cents on the dollar. If you search "women 80 cents on the dollar," you'll get articles that say women make 80 cents on the dollar. 

2. Avoid culturally loaded terms. For example, the term "black-on-white crime" is a term used by white supremacist groups, but is not a term generally used by sociologists or criminologists. If you Google that term you may get search results from the perspective of a white supremacist. (See "The Miseducation of Dylann Roof.")

3. Think about what constitutes an authoritative source before you search. That is, think about what sorts of sources you would like to find in your results list before you begin searching. For example, for the search on crime victimization by race, you might want to find current data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics

4. Scan your search results for better results. In the holocaust search example, you might notice a Wikipedia article on Holocaust denialism. That might be a better search term for what you actually want to know. 

Learn more about avoiding confirmation bias in searches here:


Adapted from Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers by Michael A. Caufield, CC BY 4.0

Avoiding Confirmation Bias