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Confirmation bias is adaptive when coupled with efficient metacognition

Rollwage, M; Fleming, SM; (2021) Confirmation bias is adaptive when coupled with efficient metacognition. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences , 376 (1822) , Article 20200131. 10.1098/rstb.2020.0131. Green open access

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Abstract

Biases in the consideration of evidence can reduce the chances of consensus between people with different viewpoints. 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 harmful. Here, we suggest that confirmation bias is adaptive to the extent that agents have good metacognition, allowing them to downweight contradictory information when correct but still able to seek new information when they realize 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 systematically affected by agents' introspective abilities. Strikingly, we find that selective information processing can even improve decision-making when compared with 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 on issues such as political polarization. This article is part of the theme issue 'The political brain: neurocognitive and computational mechanisms'.

Type: Article
Title: Confirmation bias is adaptive when coupled with efficient metacognition
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2020.0131
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2020.0131
Language: English
Additional information: © 2021 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: adaptive rationality, belief updating, confirmation bias, metacognition, selective information processing
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10123496
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