How Confirmation Bias Affects How People Analyze Hockey

Confirmation Bias – the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.

Confirmation Bias is when a person has already made up their mind on a subject matter and will only look for information that confirms their opinion. They wrote their story or narrative and they don’t plan on changing it. They will disregard any evidence that contradicts their thought process. Confirmation Bias often leads to poor decision making as one is clouding the truth by only seeing the side of the story they want to see.

What does this have to do with hockey?

Coaches, Management, and Fans often show signs of confirmation bias.

The coach that likes analytics only if it confirms their opinion. If the numbers don’t follow the coaches original opinion, he or she throws the numbers out as meaningless. If the numbers don’t agree with the coaches original hypothesis, then the numbers don’t matter is a sign of confirmation bias.

The General Manager who believe Kris Russell is an elite defensemen will say stats aren’t important when analyzing Kris Russell. The GM will say Russell has heart, grit, and compete level, and thats all the matters. If the GM stumbles on a stat that shows Kris Russell in a positive light, he will use it to confirm his opinion that Russell is a great player. The stats that depict Russell in a negative light aren’t valid, but the blocks shot stat matter, because Russell is good at that stat. This is an example of confirmation bias. The GM believe Russell is elite. They will throw out anything that contradicts this sentiment and tout anything that supports their beliefs.

The fan that believes player A is a horrible player. Maybe they witnessed a couple bad games from this player and made the early judgment that this player is not an NHL level player. The fan ignores anytime this player makes a good play, but tweet’s out every mistake they see. They google search “player A is bad” which leads them to search results of people complaining about the player, which confirms their own opinion or narrative. They didn’t google search “player A scouting report” to find the positives, negatives, and general overview of the player. Instead, they just want to search out information that tells themselves they are right.

A stat depicting a player in a bad light that one has a favorable opinion of doesn’t indicate the stat is bad. “No way Player X should be rated so poorly, this stat is meaningless.”

Confirmation bias affects every human being. The key is to attempt to recognize confirmation bias and challenge oneself and ones beliefs. Instead of trying to confirm ones hypothesis, try to disprove it.

Here’s a short 4-minute video that explains confirmation bias well. I’m not sure how well I effectively illustrated the term in this post. However, I simply want people to think objectively and challenge old ideals and beliefs. No one wants to search for why they are wrong, but it could lead to better decision making in the end.