Confirmation bias is a threat to scientific thinking in both the laboratory and in everyday life, and it is a major contributor to pseudoscientific thinking as well as to catastrophic thinking failures among legitimate scientists. I will review the psychological literature on confirmation bias, raise concerns about the boundaries of the concept, consider the manifold applications of this bias to science and everyday life, and discuss the importance of intellectual humility as a partial antidote to confirmation bias and as a broader credo for skepticism.
Scott O. Lilienfeld is a professor of psychology at Emory University and advocate for evidence-based treatments and methods within the field. He is known for his books, 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology, Brainwashed, and others that explore and sometimes debunk psychological claims that appear in the popular press. Along with having his work featured in major U.S. newspapers and journals such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Scientific American, Lilienfeld has made television appearances on 20/20, CNN and the CBS Evening News. Lilienfeld, along with his colleague Sally Satel, has dedicated much of his career in psychology to debunking “the pop neuroscience that keeps making headlines”. They target such practices as functional magnetic resonance imaging (or neuroimaging) to “detect” moral and spiritual centers of the brain,which they call “oversimplified neurononsense”. Their book Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience was a finalist in the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Science in 2013.
Lilienfeld has written critically about Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), the use of the Rorschach test to make psychological diagnosis, recovered memory therapy, and misconceptions in autism research, such as the MMR vaccine controversy, noting that “multiple controlled studies conducted on huge international scales have debunked any statistical association between the MMR vaccine and autism”, and fad treatments such as facilitated communication.
Lilienfeld has been awarded the David Shakow Award for Outstanding Early Career Contributions to Clinical Psychology from the American Psychological Association Division 12 (1998). He is a Fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, at the Institute for Science in Medicine Founding Fellow and at the Association for Psychological Science.