lunar-human connection

Confirmation Bias in Action

lunar-human connectionWe humans are strange creatures. Here we have the ability to reason. We have science to give us a means of interpreting our world. Yet, we still fall prey to a juicy confirmation bias.

We can’t help ourselves. It affects even the keener minds, i.e., the ones that should know better. A study by the University of California provides a striking example.

Confirmation Bias in Action

Professor Jean-Luc Margot analyzed the basis for the so-called lunar effect on humans. There probably isn’t one person who hasn’t said at one time or another, “It must be a full moon.” The scenario goes something like this.

Things get wacky. It could be a higher number of accidents or more arrests involving aggression. In this case, Margot looked at hospital admissions and birth rates. A review of the literature suggesting a correlation between the moon and these types of incidents yielded startling results.

No, the moon isn’t causing your Uncle Norm to run amok. Rather, it boiled down to erroneous conclusions drawn from analysis shortcomings. Margot found problems with data collection and analysis, which contributed to the errors.

How Errors in Inductive Reasoning Occur

Induction is the process of using premises to support the credibility of a conclusion. Your argument could be weak or strong. Your conclusion could also be false. Deduction, on the other hand, is a definitive conclusion drawn from the premises. With induction, you generalize.

Here’s an example of inductive reasoning.

Premise: All of the people I see at the bar are regulars.
Conclusion: Therefore, the bar only serves regulars.

You can see the logical flaw. That’s how confirmation bias works. In a nutshell, it is the tendency to disregard evidence that does not support your beliefs and seek (or notice) the bits that do.

In the case of the lunar connection, individuals notice the spike in births and attribute to the full moon. Never mind the other times when births spiked and there was no full moon. We remember the evidence that it does.

Safety Mechanism

While it sounds silly, the confirmation bias has its place. It allows you to make quick decisions. In a world where survival was uncertain, it could mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, it also leads to errors in judgement, hence, the lunar-human connection.

But all is not lost. Awareness is the first step toward taming the bias/fallacy monster. It’s when you’re not aware that things go awry. Next time, pay attention to what you say and hear. Look for the signs of confirmation bias. It’s not the end of the world to admit that you’re wrong.

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
~Albert Einstein Chris DR

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