(Leonhardt also happens to be a Pulitzer Prize winning author, well-known commentator, and managing editor of the Times’ website covering politics and policy.)
It starts with a quick, simple puzzle for you to solve.
Then it uses your results to explain confirmation bias and how humans tend to avoid a “no” answer and focus on the positive. He also cites some great examples of how these biases influence decision-making in the business and political world – for better or worse. (Mostly for worse.)
Much of it comes down to more thoroughly testing your theories before you launch them. Avoiding our propensity to accentuate the positive, and thinking of the ways something can go wrong – in addition to how it may go right. Essentially, “asking questions that would produce a negative answer when trying to solve a problem.”
The seminal research on this concept dates back to a 1960 study by English psychologist Peter Cathcart Wason. In 2009 Jason Zweig did a great job of explaining it in the context of investments in his article in The Wall Street Journal, How to Ignore the Yes-Man in Your Head. And of course marketers have taken advantage of consumers’ confirmation bias for many years.
Leonhardt also gives a nod of thanks to Barry Nalebuff, a Yale professor and game-theory specialist, for suggesting this problem and helping put it in a larger context.
How often have you or your organization been a “victim” of confirmation bias?
Can you also utilize it to your advantage?