What they say is all I need: The role of narratives in confirmation bias

May 18, 2018 1:30 PM — 2:30 PM
Kwantlen Polytechnic University
8771 Lansdowne Road, Richmond, BC V6X 3X7


Social scientists have long known about the malleability of attitudes to persuasive communications. But what happens when changed attitudes transform into change-resilient beliefs? This review explores how confirmation bias, the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs can be caused and reinforced by narratives—termed here as narrative-driven confirmation bias. Narrative-driven confirmation bias is ubiquitous and its implications for individual and group behaviour are serious; from its political use in garnering support and silencing alternative views to its influence on how healthcare providers diagnose their patients, this cognitive bias has the power to shape societies and change lives. Peer-reviewed journal articles on attitudes, persuasion, and biases were reviewed to create a model of narrative-driven confirmation bias and explore its underlying mechanisms and potential consequences. Current gaps in the literature are identified, and recommendations for future experimental research are provided.


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Michael McCarthy
Michael McCarthy
Researcher, Data Scientist, Musician

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