By Jessica Hamzelou
We can’t help but be more welcoming of information that confirms our biases than facts that challenge them. Now an experiment has shown that we do this even when it means losing out financially.
Most research on confirmation bias has focused on stereotypes that people believe to be true, says Stefano Palminteri at École Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris. In such experiments, people hold on to their beliefs even when shown evidence that they are wrong. “People don’t change their minds,” says Palminteri.
But those kinds of beliefs tend not to have clear repercussions for the people who hold them. If our biases cost us financially, would we realize that they are not worth holding on to?
To find out, Palminteri and his colleagues at ENS and University College London set 20 volunteers a task that involved learning to associate made-up symbols with financial reward. In the first of two experiments, the volunteers were shown two symbols at a time and had to choose between them. They then received a financial reward that varied depending on their choice.
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