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Confirmation Bias

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Woman: Vaccines cause autism.
Google: Well, I have one million results that say they don't... and one result that says they do.
Woman: (picks the latter result) I... knew it!
Google: (screaming) Just because I have it doesn't mean it's TRUE!

Confirmation Bias is the fallacy of lending extra weight to information and arguments that confirm your own beliefs while disregarding or downplaying evidence that disputes them. This bias comes in several forms:

  1. Seeking evidence for a belief one already holds, or eagerly accepting it, while disregarding or downplaying contradictory evidence. Often known by the ironic name "Proof by Selected Instances".
  2. Interpreting ambiguous information with a focus on how it favors one's own beliefs.
  3. Rationalizing contradictory evidence in a way that still affirms one's own beliefs.

In fandom, the first of these three types of Confirmation Bias is the most common whenever any media product follows a distinct philosophical, political, or religious slant. People who agree will often laud it despite its flaws, while people who disagree will often lambast it regardless of its merits.

Having this type of Confirmation Bias doesn't mean the audience is unreasonable, even though they might not like your particular work. A work supporting principles contradicting the audience's ethical or moral code might make them unable to respond favorably no matter how well-written it is. A book advocating the genocide of one ethnic group won't find many supporters among that group… or the majority of people who value human life in general. The viewpoint of the work may be so detestable to a specific audience that the message may be more important to that audience than the beauty of the cinematography or brilliance of the acting. A work displaying a crucial message to the audience might make them forgive its flaws in favor of the ideals, like how people who believe in pacifism and universal compassion will likely like a film about the importance of peace and love more. However, people are usually more objectively critical of the content of media they agree with, as they don't have anything to object to ethically. When criticizing a work whose message they despise, the ideology might completely overshadow the style, ironically making their problems with the content less noticeable.

However, many people neither agree nor disagree with a message before hearing an argument they find convincing. Many examples here are, at least a small part, meant to convince the undecided rather than change someone's mind.

Even if a work isn't for converting ideological outsiders, the creator could still have designed it to settle disputes within their group.

This phenomenon isn't limited to positive beliefs, as people can be just as prone to only accepting evidence against a position they hate.

Confirmation Bias doesn't mean everyone with a given viewpoint will like something because it follows that view. Some may criticize it for not doing a good enough job of persuading the undecided or those with the opposite view. Contrast Don't Shoot the Message, which is about disliking a work because of its style even if one may agree with its message.

Compare the related fallacies No True Scotsman, Hitler Ate Sugar, and Moving the Goalposts. A form of Selective Obliviousness; see also Opinion Myopia. Taken to extremes, this way of thinking will result in a Captain Oblivious.


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  • Those Mac vs. PC ads that depend entirely on Ad Hominem and misconceptions to sell their points to the audience, which in most cases either already agrees, disagrees, and is already aware of what is untrue about the ads, Took A Third Option, or is very easily Distracted by the Shiny, which admittedly usually tends to work in Apple's favor.
    • The older ads weren't quite as preachy. The newer ones, though... well, they really rely on Viewers Are Morons and what people already hate about Windows (one commercial featured all the PC's walking away and just Justin Long staying after a potential user asked for a computer that didn't have any error messages or other problems).
    • These actually managed to make Microsoft Windows look like a put-upon underdog. As has been pointed out many times, which of these two men would you hire if they were competing for a job?
    • The T-Mobile parody commercials weren't much better... though T-Mobile was lampooning Apple iPhone, which was at the time an AT&T exclusive.
    • The UK versions of the ads are even worse. The Mac and PC are played by Robert Webb and David Mitchell, respectively. They play basically the same characters as they do in Peep Show, where Webb's character is stupid, lazy, and unreliable, and Mitchell is hard-working and serious-to-a-fault. Which qualities would you rather have on your computer?
    • Samsung has launched a similar ad campaign for their Android mobile devices, portraying Apple users as morons. And they actually directly attack the same exact potential customers they'd do well to convert. Because we all know how well the Mac vs. PC ads worked. Yup, they're even copying Apple's failures. At this rate, soon they'll be rolling out their own maps app that tells you to drive over a lake, through your local library, and onto an airport runway.
    • Microsoft's smartphone ads made it seem like phones that relied on apps were invariably hard to use, meaning you spent most of your time looking down at your phone and less time interacting with people. The Microsoft phone, however, had everything you needed on the main screen, meaning you spent less time looking down at it. You actually had to spend more time with it because you kept having to scroll, as opposed to just tapping an app.
  • There are several PSAs that often don't bother persuading those outside of a particular group. It's almost as if the producers are told to produce PSAs like this.

  • Jeff Dunham's schtick with "Walter", a puppet who often voices Midwestern conservative views, is partly made up of "clappy humor," though mostly done to appeal to audience members who "know someone like this".
    • Though Walter seems to be set up so that those who agree with him can laugh with him, and those who disagree with him can laugh at him; he's not exactly portrayed as a happy, admirable, or attractive individual, after all. Obviously, those who tend towards an extreme of either won't laugh at all.
  • George Carlin was a master of clappy humor too. His act came to focus more and more on his general misanthropy and criticism of optimistic people regardless of political affiliation. His last tour especially played up the "grumpy old man" angle.
  • Much of Lewis Black's material pre-2009 was essentially a liberal critique of the George W. Bush administration, individuals within it, and cultural conservatives paired with over-the-top facial expressions and screaming in reaction to those things. Hilarious if you're a culturally liberal person, but mostly just plain insulting if you aren't.
    • At the beginning of his set during one of his tours, he said (paraphrasing): "You are all here to listen to a bitter old man rant and rave for an hour, and that's very sad." Naturally, the audience roared with applause at this.
  • Bill Maher falls under this, hard. His highly political material, paired with his tendency to try to be edgy, makes him a very divisive comic prone to clapter/criticism, depending on who's watching.
  • Richard Pryor spots 'Clapter' and calls it out in Live On the Sunset Strip when his mention of Arizona State Penitentiary gets applause. "What? You're applauding that? Arizona State Penitentiary real popular?!"
  • Billy Connolly also gets exasperated on his "Live in New York" DVD by this. He begins his set by saying wearily "I'm supposed to talk about Scotland all the time," and is driven to distraction by the American crowd constantly clapping any mention of Scottish towns and cities.
  • Tim Minchin invokes and mocks this in his song "Thank You God". It starts with Tim telling a story of an Australian man named Sam, who prayed to God to cure his mother's eyesight, and her eyesight improved. Though Tim goes into an apparently sincere apology to God, it quickly turns into a sarcastic takedown of Sam's brand of "miracle" story as being biased towards people who are prone to believing it. Tim also spends part of the same song citing the fact that many people who tell such stories are pretty well-off as it is, since Sam's mother had a relatively benign condition that was cured quite easily.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • Politically themed comic strips, from Doonesbury to Mallard Fillmore to Prickly City to The Boondocks: if you agree with them, they're hilarious; if you don't, they're poison to the mind. If you don't have a dog in the fight on either side, then you're probably just skipping over them all to see what Frazz is up to today.
    • Ditto for The Brilliant Mind of Edison Lee. It's questionable if even the people it's allegedly preaching to find it funny. Comments on the comics blog The Comics Curmudgeon seem to indicate not...
    • And I Drew This, by Ozy and Millie creator Dana Simpson.
    • The Bad Reporter wasn't originally this — a cartoon from the early 2000s mocked the "comic-book-ization" of the media and argued that both sides of the political aisle were engaging in demonization, without particularly insulting the followers of either side so much as their leaders. A cartoon a few years later parodied i am sam with undecided voters in place of the mentally retarded. Not trying to win any converts now, are we, Mr. Asmussen?
    • Same goes for "alt-comic" strips like This Modern World, which are placed on weekly/monthly free newspapers for certain cities which have a significant liberal population.
  • Minimum Security was mostly only published in alternative newspapers where extreme views are more common. As such, it is no surprise to see a comic strip where everyone ranging from religious people, scientists, businessmen, and people who simply eat meat are depicted as evil and stupid. The main character doesn't eat meat and advocates the destruction of society, thus, she is smarter.
  • Dog-themed comics like Fred the Basset and Marmaduke tend to be praised by dog lovers and disliked by all others. Pluggers is loved by self-identified Pluggers (many of the comic ideas are sent in by readers) while people outside the demographic find the jokes incomprehensible. A similar trend follows for any other heavily-themed comic.

    Fan Works 
  • In-universe, this is the most prevalent bias that the narrator Loose Change is guilty of in Equestria: A History Revealed. Loose Change holds the belief that everything that happens in history ties into a vast conspiracy, with Princess Celestia as the evil mastermind of it all. This is despite mountains of evidence to the contrary showing that Celestia is actually a benevolent ruler, and Loose Change goes out of her way to ignore information that contradicts her claims. The few times that Loose Change calls the rest of the "idiot historians" correct is only when they match her beliefs. Loose Change's terrible reasoning skills in her essay, however, are Played for Laughs, as the fic's author intentionally made Loose Change out to be an Unreliable Narrator.
  • Discussed in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: to make Hermione a better researcher, Harry puts her through the "2-4-6 task", an experiment created by Peter Wason, the real-life psychologist who coined the term "Confirmation Bias": Harry writes down and folds up a "rule" that certain triplets of numbers follow and tasks Hermione with figuring out what it is. Hermione can say as many triplets of numbers as she likes and Harry will say "Yes" or "No" depending on if they follow the rule or not. As a starting point, Harry says that the triplet "2, 4, 6" follows the rule. Hermione tests the triplets "4, 6, 8", "10, 12, 14", "1, 3, 5", and "-3, -1, 1" and is told "Yes" for all of them. Hermione guesses that the rule is that each number is increased by two. Harry doesn't answer and points out that less than 20% of people can guess the correct answer. Hermione then tests "2, 5, 8" and "10, 20, 30" and also gets yes for both, leading her to revise her answer to "each number must increase the same amount each time". Harry gives her the paper, and to her shock, the actual rule is "Three real numbers in increasing order, lowest to highest". Harry then points out that Hermione had only come up with triplets that would confirm the hypothesis she already had in her mind and was content to end the experiment without getting a single "No" response, leading her to come up with a result much more specific than the real one.
  • Confirmation bias becomes a plot point in Father Goose and the Black Knight (a Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Law & Order: Special Victims Unit crossover fanfic). Detective Stabler is so convinced that the only reason why an adult man like Xander Harris would be associated with a school for teenage girls is that he (Xander) is a pedophile. Of course, the truth is that the girls are all Slayers-in-Training, and Xander is one of their three teachers (the other two being a Watcher and Faith).
  • A Certain Droll Hivemind: Sometimes, Misaka-11111 will claim that "nearly everyone I know" agrees with her on a certain point; for example, her clothes are not weird and have no trouble fitting, because nearly everyone she knows finds Tokiwadai medium-size girls uniform fine casual wear. She deliberately ignores the blatant bias of asking for opinions from ten thousand fellow identical clones. She mostly does this when she's especially annoyed at people asking her to act normal.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The documentary Gasland is about the supposed harm caused by hydraulic fracturing ('Fracking') of rock to mine natural gas. As the Skeptoid podcast points out, it is hard to know what to make of the movie, since it's devoted to proving that fracking is dangerous and generally assumes all of the ill effects to local people (such as tap water that is flammable) are caused by fracking and aren't simply natural phenomena specific to the area. Yet, conversely, most of the high-profile criticism of the movie has come from the natural gas industry, so it is very difficult to find an unbiased opinion on the subject.
    • There's also the fact that towards the end of the movie's production, the critics it was based on who had supposedly proved many of the dangers of fracking were discovered to have been frauds. When asked how the movie was going to address it, it was suggested that in the movie, the fraudulent critics would be portrayed as secretly being in the employ of the companies that would profit from fracking and that they allowed themselves to be revealed as frauds to discredit fracking critics.
  • A significant factor in the plot of My Cousin Vinny. The Police investigating the shooting hear one of their suspects say "I shot the clerk?" and interpret it not as a question, but as a statement.
  • The film Rock: It's Your Decision heavily engages in this by turning the protagonist into a mouthpiece for the filmmaker's views. According to this film, all artists within the broad spectrum of "rock" music engage in drugs, promiscuity, and Satanism, and many of them sing openly about this (and there is no such thing as "metaphor"). Also, the rock beat apparently "controls" you by compelling you to dance along, tap your feet, snap your fingers, etc., with the implication that it can also compel you to commit more insidious acts; and this controlling nature is apparently something unique to this type of music. There are hardly any counter-arguments presented, and most of them come from a straw jerk who, nonetheless, often sounds more reasonable than the protagonist.
  • Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me famously followed the filmmaker as he lived on nothing but McDonald's for thirty days, eating everything on the menu at least once and super-sizing every time it is offered, suffering significant health and weight issues as a result. This appears to have been greatly aided by Spurlock suddenly changing to a sedentary lifestyle, eating far more than he needed to, and sleeping a lot, as no one has been able to reproduce his results. Spurlock did all he could to reach the conclusion he wanted to reach, while many other studies have shown that combining McDonald's food with an active lifestyle and not overeating does not lead to health or weight issues. Spurlock himself tries to justify this in the documentary by claiming he was replicating the non-active lifestyle of the average American, but many still accuse him and the film of being disingenuous at best, outright lies at worst.
  • The Usual Suspects: Confirmation bias is discussed by Verbal Kint, who is interrogated by Inspector Kujan at a police investigation. Later, the audience will discover that Verbal not only discussed it, but exploited it.
    Verbal: To a cop, the explanation is never that complicated. It's always simple. There's no mystery to the street, no arch criminal behind it all. If you got a dead body and you think his brother did it, you're gonna find out you're right.
  • Rather refreshingly averted with Saving Christmas. Producer and star Kirk Cameron seemed convinced that no matter what the critical appraisal, the film would find an audience with hard-core Christians looking for a good Christmastime flick. However, the film's agenda of endorsing the commercial or hedonistic aspects of Christmas rather than the loving spiritual ones caused most Christians to hate the film too.
  • Confirmation bias is one of the many criticisms of Pure Flix's God's Not Dead and its sequel. Both of the films don't seem to do much other than play to the persecution complex that many American Christians have by making public education institutions out as atheist/liberal-run establishments bent on stamping out Christianity and portrays every character who isn't a Christian as being a miserable Jerkass who's hostile towards Christians. Not to mention the court cases cited in the end credits of both films as evidence that the films' plots are happening in real life; if you actually look into them, you'd see that none of them come close to the films' plots, but rather were cases of Christians discriminating against LGBT students or just more right-leaning political issues.
  • This is part of the Hype Backlash that Parasite (2019) got after it swept the Oscars and was heaped with constant praise by critics. Some who came away from the film less impressed accused the people who praised it of not caring about the movie's actual merits, only its socio-political themes, which they just happened to agree with.

  • Behind the Sandrat Hoax: Dr. Bancroff firmly refuses to believe that sandrats survive without water or that eating one can prevent dehydration. While conducting tests that support this claim, he deprives captive sandrats of their regular food, which, combined with their digestive system, lets the sandrats go without water. He spends the next four years citing this test while denying that people are surviving in the desert because of sandrats despite their stories offering no other explanation for how they survived. Dr. Cathcart publishes an article that derides Bancroff as an administrator with no scientific imagination and writes that "[[I]]n science, theories are based on facts, not vice-versa." Bancroff replies by firing Cathcart
  • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (whose thesis is exactly what it sounds like) is a notable example. Naturally, when Alister McGrath wrote The Dawkins Delusion (a book that argues against Dawkins' book), almost anyone who agreed with Dawkins' book automatically disliked McGrath's book, whereas those who disagreed with Dawkins' book were almost always immediate fans of McGrath's book. Even if a book were itself unbiased, the readers' bias would likely result in a similar reaction. As with many of these examples, very few actually read them both, as noted in the reviews themselves.
  • C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia series and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series are author tracts for Christianity and atheism, respectively. Lewis didn't originally intend his work to turn into one, while Pullman very much intentionally wrote his series with promoting atheism in mind (as well as making an anti-religious rebuttal to Lewis); as a result, His Dark Materials is a lot more frank and up-front about its message. Justified in the case of Narnia as it was never intended as a tool for conversion, but for an already-Christian readership to explore their own beliefs in a fantastic setting.
  • Left Behind is largely only liked by people who already believe in the Rapture. However, the author's beliefs regarding the rapture, the afterlife, and who is "worthy" is very old testament and controversially exclusive (the "only rapture-believing Christians who have said the phrase 'I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior' at some point"note  and "you only get one chance if you've never heard of the Bible until then" rules being the most obvious) make a lot of mainstream Christians uncomfortable because it reeks of Disproportionate Retribution.
  • Michael D. O'Brien's Children of the Last Days series has a similar effect, being essentially a Catholic version of the former (without a Rapture, which is not Catholic dogma). Regardless of the writing, it comes strongest to those who tend to share the author's "traditional Christian" views.
  • Much of the writing of libertarian anarchist Science Fiction author L. Neil Smith falls under this. In fact, he has explicitly stated that he writes mainly to entertain those already having an anti-state worldview.
  • Whenever politics is mentioned in any work by John Ringo, you can bet that conservatives will be upright, heroic, and correct, and liberals will be obstructionist (if not evil), ignorant, and wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. And most intelligent people will be conservative. The stories sometimes read like a "how to hate the liberals" manual. And of course, most of Ringo's fans are themselves conservative.
  • The Number of the Beast: Invoked specifically by Zeb in his backstory. Specifically, he carefully structured his Ph.D. thesis to "show" that biases held by all the members of his doctoral committee were widely held to be correct (crossed with Appeal to Obscurity, as he pulled a lot of selective quotations out of materials that hadn't been translated into English as part of his "research").
  • In A Scandal In Bohemia, Sherlock Holmes warns us of the dangers of this fallacy in regards to investigation:
    Holmes: It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.
  • In the Myth Adventures novel M.Y.T.H. Inc. Link, Skeeve is continually examining the books of the gambling club he won in a poker game, looking for evidence that the manager is skimming money off the top. One of his bodyguards points out that the problem with what he's doing is that "if you look for evidence of graft long enough, you're going to find it whether it's there or not." So he gives up the constant audits. Turns out, the manager was skimming off the top, but the point was still made.
  • In-Universe, The Divine Comedy has Saint-Doctor Thomas Aquinas warning Dante against believing that he sees the world as perfectly as God, for his perception passes on truth "like an artist who knows his craft but has a hand that trembles." If he fails to recognize the faults of his opinions, Dante will fall into the ranks of idiot philosophers and heretics, since "affection for one’s own opinion binds, confines the mind."
  • Spenser has occasionally discussed confirmation bias regarding police investigations, noting that cops tend to go with the simplest explanation for a crime. However, he has also pointed out that the simplest explanation really is the correct one most of the time, and for the few times it isn't, the fact is that the police always have lots of cases they're trying to clear (and there's always another eleven or more about to show up), so they don't have time to do an in-depth investigation of a crime that to all appearances has been solved.
  • In the introduction to his book "Outrage: The 5 Reasons O.J Simpson Got Away With Murder" Vince Bugilosi says point blank the book is for people who already believe that O.J Simpson was guilty and to confirm why.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The word "clapter" was coined to describe the latter effect in TV — when an audience applauds a joke more than actually laughing at it. It's an accusation often leveled at the more political years of The Daily Show after Jon Stewart took the helm. (Its synonym "clappy humor" has an entry in the Urban Dictionary.)
    • There are great honking buttloads of "comedians" who feed on clapter. Not surprisingly, they tend to disappear whenever the political winds shift in their favor.
    • One unused stand-up bit from Seinfeld is about this. "To comedians, the truth is just bad material. The last thing you want is for people to just be thinking, "Hey, he's... right. He's a really, really accurate guy."
  • This is undoubtedly one of two reasons that The O'Reilly Factor and Countdown with Keith Olbermann exist. By extension, any show (or book, or radio program, or whatever) with a severe political slant is going to fall into this at some point as the Invisible Hand pulls them in that direction. There's almost no pundit who doesn't.
  • Panel shows try to avert this by having a variety of guests of different viewpoints (mainly because it would be boring to see a bunch of people sitting around agreeing on everything). Of course, there are plenty of ways to make a biased panel show (i.e. get a Fox News Liberal, stack the deck by putting aggressive "strong" debaters against less experienced ones, unevenly stack the panel on one side so everyone can gang up on the minority opinion, etc.)
  • On Saturday Night Live in 2012, Seth Meyers recommended that both presidential candidates stop "telling us stories about people you met at your rally who happen to agree with your positions. That's like Bret Michaels saying, 'At my last concert, someone yelled 'Poison rules!'"
  • Totally Biased With W Kamau Bell: Most if not all of the political jokes are funny if you agree with the guy. This applies even more so for almost all of the guests, the exception being Chris Rock.
  • Television news stations. You can pretty accurately determine the political leanings of a person by what network they watch. Obviously, the pundits that are saying what you believe are the ones that "really get it" and "tell it like it is without all the crap."
  • Joe Dante has a bad tendency to do this in his TV work. This led to the latter half of Eerie, Indiana being unwatchable by anyone who wasn't a capital-L liberal.
  • The audience of Real Time with Bill Maher have been accused of heckling guests who fall on the opposite side of the host.
  • In the Criminal Minds episode "Profiler, Profiled", Gideon and Reid discuss the fact that the detective who arrested Agent Morgan for murder already suspected Morgan of the crime before requesting an "anonymous" profile of the likely killer and then applied the profile directly to Morgan. Reid specifically points out all the parts of the profile the detective ignored because they were inaccurate when considering Agent Morgan as a suspect. Snarky fans and critics might point out that the team themselves are just as guilty of this in their own way, frequently smashing through the doors of suspects who happen to fit their often-times sketchy profiles (and occasionally rejecting suspects because they don't fit the profile, regardless of other evidence) — of course, since it's the heroes, they are almost always in the right.
  • In the UK, Channel 4 has made a slew of fly-on-the-wall documentaries that look at particular groups of people that relate to very controversial topics; e.g. My Granny, The Escort, which looks at elderly prostitutes; Crazy About One Direction, which, needless to say, looks at One Direction fans; and perhaps more infamously Benefits Street, which looks at benefit claimants. What makes one hesitant to call these shows "documentaries" is that they don't present these issues in an informative manner, instead presenting a one-sided view of the people being covered. Benefits Street especially focuses primarily on people who aren't doing much with their lives outside of watching T.V., painting benefit claimants in a negative light, which has been pointed out by full-time parents and disabled people. This seems to be becoming more transparent, however, as a proposed spin-off Immigration Street was cancelled halfway through filming due to protests over possible racism-related violence.
  • Years and Years. As the YMMV page lampshades, the way you view the series pretty much depends entirely on whether or not you agree with the political opinions of Russell T. Davies. You'll think it's either a terrifying look into the future or a laughable tantrum against people Davies disagrees with.
  • One episode of Bones has an anthropologist as the victim. One of his biggest customers is a man who runs a creationist museum, which purports to disprove human evolution and supports intelligent design. Sweets quickly points out that most of the fossils he purchased from the victim actually disprove the man's timeline and as such aren't anywhere to be found. Sweets outright accuses him of buying the fossils to destroy them to support his beliefs, to which he doesn't have a good answer.

  • Certain genres of music may invite this reaction, particularly those that began as underground movements and became mainstream later on; artists and songs would be judged primarily on their subject matter, perceived attitude, or whether or not a message is present, rather than being enjoyed/loathed for the music itself. Hip-hop music, due to its lyric-heavy, melody-sparse nature, might be the most prominent example. Particularly the artists of the Political Rap sub-genre. The main polarizers being Public Enemy, The Coup, and the extremely controversial rappers Paris, and Immortal Technique. And to a lesser extent, Ice Cube, Ice-T, and Tupac Shakur.
    • Also affected are genres that rely on a particular philosophy: Things like Punk and Black Metal come to mind.

    Print Media 

  • Most political radio shows tend to be this by default. Neal Boortz does his best to encourage dissenting opinions, for certain values of "encourage" and "dissenting" and "his best", because (as he said in his book Somebody's Gotta Say It) shows where everybody agrees with the host tend to be extremely boring and sycophantic.
  • The Now Show can veer into this territory, although it's usually more about cynicism of any politician or celebrity than about conservatives and liberals.

  • Othello: Scholars have suggested for centuries that Iago's lies about Desdemona's infidelity are actually pretty flimsy; the tragedy comes from the fact that Othello is so willing to believe them.

    Video Games 
  • Confirmation bias drives the mindset of the Reapers in the Mass Effect series. They were created by an advanced Artificial Intelligence who became convinced that synthetic life would inevitably attack and destroy organic life, and created the Reapers as a way to supposedly "preserve" organic life in a synthetic form. The idea that organics and synthetics could co-exist peacefully (as demonstrated by EDI, the geth, and [in Mass Effect: Andromeda] SAM) never occurred to them or were considered one-off anomalies every time the situation popped up.
  • With the heavy focus on rumors and conspiracy theories, Confirmation Bias plays a big part in the story for Persona 2. The perhaps most damning instance is with Maya Okamura where as rumors start to become real she thoroughly digs into her own wild beliefs to affirm them, finding whatever she can to support them while ignoring anything that says otherwise, creating a self-fulfilling and toxic spiral. This culminates in her actively trying to make certain things true just to further indulge in her bias, even if it means the end of the world.
  • Persona 4, with its themes of finding the truth and Arc Words "People see what they want to see, and believe what they want to believe", naturally deals with this during its story. This is how the Investigation Team suspect the wrong person for the murders twice.
    • The first time, a suspect kills a teacher and turns himself in to the police, taking credit for all the murders. Chie remembers him acting creepy towards Yukiko earlier that year (which did happen) and ties that in to a motive for kidnapping her. But Kanji and Rise were also kidnapped. Yosuke then remembers how the suspect had once ranted about biker gangs and Rise had seen him around her grandmother's tofu shop, leading them to jump to the conclusion that he must have kidnapped them too. All of this blinds them to the obvious: the current victim had a completely different cause of death to the first two, and the current suspect shows no knowledge of the TV World.
    • The second time, the team is emotional over the kidnapping and supposed death of someone close to them, and has a suspect who's admitted to the kidnappings and displays an unhinged desire to "save" people. The knowledge that the killer's supernatural methods might be undetectable by the police leads them to seriously consider a Vigilante Execution. The protagonist must choose their responses very carefully to talk them out of it, by stalling long enough for them to realize their premise for suspecting this person as the killer has numerous holes.
    • It hits again in the ending, and is aimed at the player as well as the cast. It's easy to assume after the killer is caught, and after fighting a giant supernatural being (with a unique boss theme) seeking to bring order to humanity, that the story is over and all loose ends are wrapped up. It isn't, and they're not.

    Visual Novels 

    Western Animation 
  • Spider-Man (1967): When Peter Parker comes in with some pictures of the Green Goblin stealing a magical tome, J. Jonah Jameson fits this evidence into his existing viewpoint:
    Jameson: The thought of Spider-Man with supernatural powers makes me shiver!
    Parker: But... that's the Green Goblin.
    Jameson: So he got a new costume!

  • In his Youtube podcast series Afterburner, conservative American pundit Bill Whittle often falls to this kind of logic, such as when attributing Plano, TX' record homicide lows to their high gun ownership rateand absolutely no other factors. Another example has him concluding that America's laissez-faire economic model had made the country more inventive and ingenious than 'Socialist' countries like Sweden. His compelling evidence: the clicks he needed on The Other Wiki to find entries on American and Swedish inventions.
  • Gleefully parodied in this strip of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
  • The Chick Tracts, although even most people of the same view think he's insane. This is especially noticeable with the sources cited in the tracts. At least 90% of them are published by Chick himself. Which means he is pretty much creating his own research material.
  • Tony Kushner not only admitted to but defended this in a 1997 essay, albeit with a pretty valid reason behind it:
    The converted need preaching to as much as the unconverted, and will usually prove far more responsive and interested in change ... Those who are involved in the struggle to change the world need art that assists in examining the issues at hand, which are usually incredibly complex.
  • Some critics have argued that the internet would result in "echo chambers" where everyone would just view news sites, blogs, and forums that didn't challenge their views. Online communities have since adopted the term "echo chamber" to refer to this phenomenon, along with other terms like "circlejerk" (which refers to a group of people masturbating together) and "hug box" (which refers to an actual device used to calm hypersensitivity). According to one study, online "echo chambers" aren't any worse than other media (since radio, TV, and print media that pander to either side do exist and always have).
    • Google and other web search engines will give personalized search results, changing the order of search results based on one's web activity. The potential problems are self-evident: sites you agree with are more visited and come up higher in search results, while sites you disagree with may end up buried in the search results, even if they bring up a worthwhile point regarding a particular search. Google now has a setting to quickly switch personalized results on and off from the results page.
  • The Republican National Committee, in the wake of the 2012 presidential election, admitted that many conservatives spoke only to people on their side or paid attention to news sources slanted in their favor (such as the Fox News Channel), which was likewise basing their stories only on what their own side was saying. As a result, they were convinced that Mitt Romney would be elected in a landslide, and basically let his campaign coast, confident he would win handily. Once that bubble of comfort burst, however, the results were less than pretty. Karl Rove in particular had an on-camera meltdown when Fox News called Ohionote  for Barack Obama.
    • The exact same thing occurred in 2016 to the Democrats (and to an extent, the mainstream Republican party). Donald Trump was initially treated as a joke by all media and establishment, who didn't realize how angry much of the populace was at the Washington insiders. It was not until Trump won multiple state primaries that people realized how much of the country had been excluded from the bubble and how upset they were. The same thing happened in the final election, with the majority of the media entering certain of a Clinton victory. The conviction was so strong that conspiracy theories immediately cropped up around Trump's victory.
  • Played with in regards to YouTube videos about conspiracy theories. There will be a few instances where the title points in one direction, but the content points another direction, and sometimes there will be an admission that this is done to draw in the opposing crowd.
  • Conspiracy theorists tend to cite each other rather than any reputable outlet. The anti-vaccine blogosphere (Age of Autism, Natural News) and quack "boomed" practitioners (Andrew Wakefield) they defend are good examples of this.
  • A major contributor to the continued appeal of psychics and mediums. As Michael Shermer has noted, they don't tend to give out negative readings or tell people things they don't want to hear:
    There was redemption for all — our loved ones forgive us for any wrongdoing; they still love us; they suffer no more; they want us to be happy. What else would he say? "Your father wants you to know that he will never forgive you for wrecking his car"? (On James Van Pragh)
  • Critics argue that this is how horoscopes and, to a lesser extent, personality tests such as Myers–Briggs work. If you don't know your star sign, try looking at all twelve of them. How many fit you, and how distinctly? Now, which one is yours? It's been shown in tests that a sufficiently vague astrological reading will be identified by nearly everyone as describing them, regardless of what their actual star sign is.
  • For a long time, it was believed that the circle was the most "perfect" and aesthetically pleasing shape and, therefore, planetary orbits would naturally tend to be circular. Measurements that didn't support this were dismissed as inaccurate until too much contrary evidence was piled up to ignore, and then ever-more-complex models involving small circular micro-orbits ("epicycles") around the main orbit were devised to account for the discrepancy. Finally, Johannes Kepler showed that all this silliness could be avoided by dropping the insistence on perfectly circular orbits and moving to a more elegant model of elliptical orbits.
  • The CollegeHumor sketch "If Google Was a Guy":
    • In part 3, a woman searches Google (who is in the form of a regular guy) about vaccines causing autism. Google comes up with a million results that say they don't, and one source that says they do. The woman snatches the latter result with a smarmy "I knew it!"
    • It happened again a few videos later, with another woman coming in and searching for "Climate change is not real." Google responds with a massive pile of letters and the retort "Climate change is real." The woman then adopted the same smarmy tone and said (while making Air Quotes) "Climate change is not real," narrowing it down once again to a single entry, which she snatched and swaggered out.
  • Ideas about the "golden ratio"note  phi (or "tau" as some mathematicians, wishing to disassociate themselves from such beliefs, prefer to call it) is that the "perfect" rectangle as far as human psychology is concerned is one whose sides are in the golden ratio. One psychologist did an experiment exploring this, and claimed that the results he got "proved" the idea; but others, attempting to repeat the experiment, were able only to conclude that the ideal rectangle for most people lies somewhere between 1:1 and 2:1. When this is mentioned to phi supporters, they tend to dismiss this inconvenient fact.note 
  • Gamers (and gamblers) have a wide range of superstitions surrounding the Random Number God, though mostly this falls among tabletop gamers who handle the dice themselves as opposed to a computerized RNG. It's easy to remember having a hot streak one night, leading you to favor the same dice later; or a die seems "cursed" because you missed a few hits in a row in an important fight. In either case, you're most likely selectively remembering what confirms the feeling of whether you're doing well or not — if you're losing games or your character takes a pounding, you're more likely to remember the dice or cards "working against" you. Outside of tabletop and video games, gamblers have been suffering far longer under the same basic fallacies from confirmation bias and misunderstanding of things like the law of averages. This also gave rise to what's known as the Gambler's Fallacy - the belief that coins/dice/slots/cards/etc. have "memory," or that a sequence of events with a random outcome (like flipping a coin) is somehow affected by previous outcomes.
  • One variant of this is called kafkatrappingnote , in reference to Franz Kafka's The Trial. It's when you accuse someone of something, and then take their denial as a Suspiciously Specific Denial that only further proves the accusation.
  • People who follow the Young Earth movement—that is, who believe that God literally created the world in a week and the planet is only 6000 years old based on Biblical evidence—tend to consider all evidence to the contrary (such as fossils and artifacts carbon-dated to more than 6000 years old) as having been placed there either by God or the Devil (depending on who you ask) to "test their faith". Others claim it shows a scientific conspiracy against "Biblical truth", or the biologists/geologists own biases (never mind that many prominent scientists in these fields are/were themselves Christians-they switch to them being "not the right kind" if it's pointed out).
  • The common belief that people can somehow sense if they are Being Watched may actually be caused by this: people tend to remember the times they thought someone was watching them, turned around, and saw someone there, but forget the times when they turned around and there was no one there.
  • A particularly nasty variant happened in the Renaissance. A few scholars put forth the idea that the five-hundred-year or so period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the "high middle ages" was a time of absolute ignorance where there was almost no development of civilization and science. They dubbed it the Dark Ages. When evidence refuting this theory was discovered they not only ignored it, they destroyed it. The damage can still be seen in modern history and the popular consciousness. The Motive 
  • A harmless, but still telling example: there was an experiment where they would tell people three numbers and ask them to guess the "rule" they followed. They would start with something like 2/4/6 and, starting from that example, most participants assumed it was "even numbers increasing by two" and would ask things like if 8/10/12, 14/16/18, and so on followed it until eventually making the guess. It turns out they were wrong: the rule is really "any three numbers in increasing order". What makes this so interesting is how easy it would be for those involved to disprove their theory (e.g ask "does 5/7/9 fit?") yet not one person involved thought to do this.
  • Quinton Reviews discussed this a fair bit in his "Paul Is Dead" video, focusing on how many conspiracy theorists rely on this to get evidence—the massive catalog of The Beatles material made it pretty easy for aspiring theorists to find cases of Paul McCartney being singled out or separated. In a more serious context, he pointed out a Who Shot JFK? documentary that claimed there was a man with a gun in the infamous "grassy knoll" photograph. When they reached someone who claimed to have been there and seen three men, the documentary immediately "found" two other men in the photo, whom they had never noticed before despite poring over the photo constantly. The area these men were "seen" in is small, grainy, indistinct, and dark, meaning if you wanted to, you could say pretty much anyone was there and it would be difficult to disprove.
  • Grrl Power tackles the Wolves Always Howl at the Moon trope when it introduces a werewolf character. As he explains, wolves howl a lot, and occasionally there's a moon, but since wolves howling at the moon is such a romanticized image, people only notice when it happens.
  • This is a major reason why, in law, eyewitness accounts are taken with a grain of salt: the Self-Serving Memory is a very real phenomenon, and it can be easy to convince a witness that they saw something when they didn't, especially if what you're saying to them "sounds about right."
  • According to Devin McAuley, this is the reason behind many dance videos, .gifs, or songs that seem to "go with anything", with the classic example being Dancing Spider-Man: the human brain is trained to recognize patterns, and so it picks out the bits where the beat matches up, and ignores the parts where it doesn't.
  • It's common to hear arguments that something isn't racist/sexist/etc. because they heard a few select people of that race/sex/etc. say they didn't think it was. Usually these people don't consider the possibility that they may be part of a minority (no pun intended), or at least that just as many people do think the thing is bigoted towards them as those who don't. This often takes the form of conservatives citing an article or a video about why [thing] isn't racist by one black commentator... who is also conservative.
  • Confirmation bias is a big part behind the legend of The Bermuda Triangle. While there have indeed been some shipwrecks or disasters in the region, it's a region twice the size of France, directly next to the well-traveled Caribbean and Florida, and therefore accidents of that sort cropping up would be downright expected. Most actual analyses of the region say that it's no more dangerous than you'd expect a place of its size and level of traffic to be; if anything, it's relatively safe by the standards of shipping routes. Additionally, due to the legend surrounding the place, events that would simply be described as "shipwrecks", "crashes", or "accidents" anywhere else get turned into "mysterious disappearances" when they happen in the Triangle. After all, it's easy to say that a ship "was never seen again" when it sunk in the middle of the ocean.

Alternative Title(s): Clappy Humour, Clappy Humor, Preaching To The Choir