by Toshiko Kikkawa
Confirmation bias refers to the tendency for individuals to perceive and treat others in accordance with their expectations: the hypothesis for others formed during the early stages of an interaction. The game simulates a conversation because hypothesis-confirming bias could readily occur in this context in real life.
To experience confirmation bias during interpersonal interactions.
- Minimum: 12
- Maximum: Any number.
20 to 40 minutes
Before the activity, fold paper hats using a sheet of newspaper to create each hat. If you don’t know how to do this, check out http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Paper-Hat. Alternatively, you can use regular caps.
Organize teams. Divide the players into two equal sized teams. If one player is left out (because you have an odd number of participants), make that player an observer.
Assign roles. Ask one group to play the role of listeners and the other group, speakers. Distribute the paper hats to the speakers and ask them to put the hat on and keep it on their head throughout the activity.
Brief the listeners. Assemble the listeners and tell them to start conversations with a speaker by saying, “Tell me something about you. Tell me about your job, your family, your friends, and your hobbies.” Also instruct the listeners not to interfere with the speaker’s statements. Give each listener several stickers of three different colors (green, yellow, and red).
Start the conversations. Ask the listeners to stand in the front of the room, separated from each other. Ask each speaker to pair up with a listener. Tell the listeners to get the conversation started. Wait for 2 minutes and blow the whistle to end the conversation.
Score the presentation. After the conversation, ask each listener to evaluate the speaker and apply one of the three color stickers to the speaker’s hat according to this system:
green = good
yellow = so-so
red = not good
As the speakers are wearing their hats, they are unable to see the evaluation stickers applied by the listeners.
Repeat the conversations. Ask each speaker to pair up with a different listener for another conversation. Use the same procedure as before. When the conversation is finished, ask the listeners to evaluate the speaker, using the same color scheme.
Conclude the activity. After four or five conversations, announce the end of the activity. Ask all participants to return to their seats.
Debrief the game. Ask the listeners to check the colors of stickers on their hats. Point out there is usually a tendency for the initial evaluation to establish a trend for future evaluations. Green sticker collectors and red sticker collectors may emerge in the game. Ask the listeners if their evaluations were influenced by the colors of stickers already on the speakers’ hat. This information may enhance the understanding understanding of bias.
Explain the nature of confirmation bias. Ask the players to share real-life examples of this bias.
Point out to the speakers that the red evaluation stickers they received are probably a reflection of the listeners’ bias, not objective reality.
You can use other questions to start the conversations.
You can continue the activity by reversing the roles of listeners and speakers.