Monday, July 29, 2019

Reducing Confirmation Bias

Can students be trained in a way that helps reduce confirmation bias on an unrelated task/decision in the near future?  Anne-Laure Sellier, Irene Scopelliti, and Carey K. Morewedge set out to addressz tha the question an interesting study.  They have published their results in an article titled, "Debiasing Training Improves Decision Making in the Field."

They offered students an opportunity to participate in a serious game-based training exercise.  They informed the students that this exercise could improve their "managerial decision-making ability." The exercise took 80-100 minutes. The scholars report that, "The one-shot debiasing intervention consisted of playing a serious video game, “Missing: The Pursuit of Terry Hughes.” Playing this game once has been shown to significantly reduce the propensity of players to exhibit confirmation bias..."  

At least six days later, and in some cases well over a month later, students worked to solve the "Carter Racing" business case during one of their regular class sessions.  The case is based loosely on the Challenger space shuttle launch decision, and it had nothing to do with the game-based training that they had experienced earlier.  If you avoid confirmation bias, you have a better chance of making a sound decision in the Carter Racing case.   

The results were quite striking. The scholars report, "Trained students were 29% less likely to choose an inferior hypothesis-confirming case solution than were untrained students. A reduction in confirmatory hypothesis testing appeared to explain their improved decision making in the case." Why did this significant impact occur? They do not know for sure, but they speculate that perhaps, "Games may be uniquely engaging training interventions."   Since we could all benefit from avoiding confirmation bias, I found the intervention interesting and useful as we begin to think about how to develop the decision-making abilities of leaders.   

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