Ever worked a nightshift on a full moon?Are you a victim of Confirmation Bias?

18azlo1delz86jpg-1Many people believe in the lunar theory. This is a solid belief that the phases of the moon influences the behaviour of human beings. Some state that the as humans are comprised of water it is the pull of the moon on large bodies of water. Some state it is a result of the increase in positive ions as a result of the full moon.

Talk to any nurse, police officer, or teacher and they will have multiple stories of horrendous shifts experienced during a full moon. Of note, there is no data to support this concept but I know many rational/critical thinking nurses who adhere to this belief with almost religious fanaticism. So what makes them think this way?

Confirmation bias.

What is a confirmation bias? The description that resonates with me the most is “it is a glitch in our thinking that causes to us to make questionable decision and reach erroneous conclusions”. A confirmation bias is a “limitation in our thinking — a flaw in judgment that arises from errors of memory, social attribution, and miscalculations”. Remember PIDP 3100? Merriam and Bierema on page 223, discuss assumptions and preconceptions? As humans we all come with many assumptions and preconceptions. These assumptions and preconceptions form the basis of our thought processes. Confirmation bias occurs when the decision we make is based on our assumptions and preconceptions and not necessarily on logical information.


Humans love to hang around like-minded humans. We prefer to be with people who agree with us, who hold the same thoughts as us. By surrounding ourselves with people who agree with us, who hold the same thoughts as us it re-enforces our belief that we are right and enables us to dismiss valid, logical views. Gang mentality comes to mind when I think of this. One of the most extreme examples I can come up with is ISIL. How else can we justify the thoughts patterns that lead rational humans to perform such horrendous acts against humanity?

A confirmation bias that occurs daily in nursing is: The new generation of nurses don’t want to be nurses. All they want are the management, leadership or informatics roles. They don’t place the same value on bedside nursing. They don’t see the value in holding a patient’s hand.

I recently interviewed a brand new nurse for a frontline position. During the interview I asked the following question, “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” this gives me an idea as to the nurse’s plan for learning and development as well as an idea of where they ultimately want to work, i.e. critical care, emergency etc. On this occasion the nurse replied very quickly that she plans to be a nurse manager (my job). It was really hard not to leap to all sorts of conclusions about the younger generation not be willing to “do time in the trenches” etc. I put my assumptions aside and asked her why? She replied calmly that she is very aware that she does not have the desire to do frontline nursing but has found that she has skills in business and management. Did I give her the job? I will admit that I didn’t. She did not meet my unit’s need for a clinical nurse. Did I fall victim to confirmation bias? Perhaps.

For the purpose of the discussion I would like to have you share some of the confirmation bias that occur in your profession or classroom. How as an educator can you avoid falling into the trap of these biases?



Merriam, S., & Bierema, L., (2014), Adult Learning; Linking Theory and Practice,

           San Francisco, Jossey-Bass



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