Noun: Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias, according to Google, is “the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.”

Technology… potentially opens up a vast new realm of evidence, and that, if not very carefully analyzed, risks feeding confirmation bias.

Last Friday, Journal News reported that a man from Middletown, Ohio was charged with the crime of arson, in part due to data from his artificial heart implant.

Data from man’s pacemaker led to arson charges

Artificial heart implant? Get the data!

Data from man’s pacemaker led to arson charges

But… only asking one professional to analyze the data?

Data from man’s pacemaker led to arson charges

That runs a high risk of confirmation bias.

Arson investigations unfortunately utilize a lot of pseudoscience and assumptions.

There’s a case from Texas in which the prosecutor’s theory focused on a pentagram.

Death By Fire

It was just an Iron Maiden poster.

Death By Fire

Evidence of nothing.

Perhaps the heart implant / pacemaker data actually supports law enforcement’s theory. But perhaps not. Time will tell.

What do we know now?

I know that I can predict this story will stoke fears of our data being used against us. In a age in which multitudes of people are wearing fitness trackers and smart watches tracking their heart rates, how can it not?

But it’s not data we should fear, it’s the humans “interpreting” it.



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