Quotations about   confirmation bias

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And therefore it was a good answer that was made by one who, when they showed him hanging in a temple a picture of those who had paid their vows as having escaped shipwreck, and would have him say whether he did not now acknowledge the power of the gods — “Aye,” asked he again, “but where are they painted that were drowned after their vows?” And such is the way of all superstition, whether in astrology, dreams, omens, divine judgments, or the like; wherein men, having a delight in such vanities, mark the events where they are fulfilled, but where they fail, though this happen much oftener, neglect and pass them by.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 46 (1620)
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Added on 7-Jul-16 | Last updated 7-Jul-16
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If you torture the data long enough, Nature will confess.
Coase - torture the data - wist_info quote

Ronald Coase (1910-2013) British economist, academic, author
(Attributed)

Criticizing econometricians. Cited as early as 1977. Variants:
  • "If you torture data long enough, it will confess to anything you'd like."
  • "If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything."
Added on 25-Apr-16 | Last updated 25-Apr-16
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It was not the absence of intelligence which led us into trouble but our unwillingness to draw unpleasant conclusions from it.

H. A. de Weerd (1902-1979) American military historian, author [Harvey Arthur de Weerd]
“Strategic Surprise in the Korean War,” Orbis (1962)

On the US decision in 1950 to call China's bluff by advancing above the 38th parallel.
Added on 24-Feb-16 | Last updated 24-Feb-16
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But the problem with any ideology is that it gives the answer before you look at the evidence. So you have to mold the evidence to get the answer that you’ve already decided you’ve got to have. It doesn’t work that way.

Clinton - ideology - wist_info quote

William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton (b. 1946) American politician, US President (1993-2001)
Interview, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (20 Sep 2012)
Added on 17-Feb-16 | Last updated 17-Feb-16
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Nearly always, the best deception trades on the enemy’s own preconceptions. If he already believes what you want him to believe, you have merely to confirm his own ideas rather than to undertake the more difficult task of inserting new ones into his mind.

Ronald Lewin (1914-1984) British military historian, radio producer publishing editor
Ultra Goes to War, ch. 10 (1978)
Added on 11-Aug-15 | Last updated 11-Aug-15
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Everyone is prejudiced in favor his own powers of discernment, and will always find an argument most convincing if it leads to the conclusion he has reached for himself; everyone must then be given something he can grasp and recognize as his own idea.

Pliny the Younger (c. 61-c. 113) Roman politician, writer [Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus]
Letters, Book 1, Letter 20 [tr. Radice (1963)]
Added on 30-Jul-15 | Last updated 30-Jul-15
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We are susceptible only to those suggestions with which we are already secretly in accord.

Carl Jung (1875-1961) Swiss psychologist
Modern Man in Search of a Soul, ch. 3 [tr. Dell & Baynes (1933)]
Added on 25-Jun-15 | Last updated 25-Jun-15
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The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
“In Front of Your Nose” Tribune (22 Mar 1946)
Added on 12-Jun-15 | Last updated 12-Jun-15
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Earthly minds, like mud walls, resist the strongest batteries: and though, perhaps, sometimes the force of a clear argument may make some impression, yet they nevertheless stand firm, and keep out the enemy, truth, that would captivate or disturb them. Tell a man passionately in love that he is jilted; bring a score of witnesses of the falsehood of his mistress, it is ten to one but three kind words of hers shall invalidate all their testimonies.

John Locke (1632-1704) English philosopher
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book 4, ch. 20, “Of Wrong Assent, or Error” (1690)
Added on 15-May-15 | Last updated 15-May-15
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For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride, lest his mind should seem to be occupied with things mean and transitory; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless, in short, are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections color and infect the understanding.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
Novum Organum, Book 1, Aphorism 49 (1620)

Alt. trans.: "Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true." [Quod enim mavult homo verum esse, id potius credit.] See Demosthenes.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-May-16
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People readily believe what they want to believe.

Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) Roman general and statesman [Gaius Julius Caesar]
The Gallic Wars [De Bello Gallico], Book 3, sec. 18 (49 BC)

Alt. trans.: "Men believe that willingly which they wish to be true."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 27-Feb-15
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