Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER)

Confirmation bias

We prefer information which confirms what we know and believe and we are more likely to overlook information which challenges or contradicts:

‘sometimes you know, your colleagues or employers perceive you as just the Roma, not the professional … So they overemphasise that aspect.’ (Female, mixed Angolan-Portuguese heritage)

Confirmation bias in the way we view people

  • You meet someone and unconsciously categorise them
  • The stereotypes and societal norms linked to those categories are linked to that individual
  • You are more likely to notice and remember their behaviour which is in keeping with the categories into which you have placed them – thereby reinforcing your opinion of them in that category. You are proving yourself to be correct.
  • You are less likely to notice and remember their behaviour which does not fit within the category

Impact on decision-making and behaviour

There is potential for unconscious biases to impact on how we perceive others’ ability and how we remember the work they have undertaken and what they have accomplished. For example:

  • how good/bad aspects of a students’ performance are noticed and remembered
  • how forgivingly mistakes are looked upon or not
  • which students are encouraged to pursue further study

There are two things we can do to mitigate our biases:

  1. try to break the links in the way we interpret and process information and reduce our unconscious biases
  2. ensure that we acknowledge we have unconscious biases and do what we can to manage them impacting on our decision making and behaviour


  • We all have unconscious biases and we are all affected by bias
  • We can take action to manage the impact on our behaviour and decision making
  • It’s up to individuals to decide what action to take

Spend a few minutes thinking about what you can do to recognise and reduce your own biases and mitigate their impact on your behaviour and decision making. What will you do?