November 25, 2020

Confirmation bias is adaptive when coupled with self-awareness

Selective consideration of information is a prominent feature of human behaviour, and recent studies have identified proneness to confirmation bias as a cognitive feature underlying dogmatic beliefs. While such altered information processing typically leads to detrimental performance in laboratory tasks, the ubiquitous nature of confirmation bias makes it unlikely that selective information processing is universally detrimental. Here we suggest that confirmation bias is adaptive to the extent that agents have good metacognition, and are able to seek information when they realise they are wrong. Using simulation-based modelling, we explore how the adaptiveness of holding a confirmation bias depends on such metacognitive insight. We find that the behavioural consequences of selective information processing are highly dependent on agents’ introspective abilities. Strikingly, selective information processing can even improve decision-making when compared to unbiased evidence accumulation, as long as it is accompanied by good metacognition. These results further suggest that interventions which boost people’s metacognition might be efficient in alleviating the negative effects of selective information processing.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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