Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that reaffirms our pre-existing beliefs. We may selectively notice information; for instance, if we think the full moon makes people act weird, we’re likely to notice and remember strange things we see people doing during a full moon better than strange things we observe at other times (or than all the people we see acting perfectly normally during a full moon). We tend to perceive what we expect to see, our brains struggling to come up with reasons that justify what we already think.
Dmitriy T.C. sent in a video that illustrates this particular type of selective thinking. Jimmy Kimmel gave people on the street an exclusive look at the iPhone 5 and asked what they thought of it. Except, of course, the iPhone 5 isn’t available yet. What he actually gave them was an iPhone 4S. But when told they’re looking at a new version of the iPhone, everyone immediately perceives clear improvements that make it better than the iPhone 4.
You might expect this from people who don’t have much knowledge of iPhones; they don’t have a clear basis for comparison, so whatever features seem neat, they assume are new. But even people holding their own iPhone 4 up for direct comparison perceive the “iPhone 5” Kimmel hands them to be superior, noting a range of details — it’s lighter, faster, just clearly better. They think a new version of a gadget must be way more awesome than the previous version, and Apple has an aura of coolness that leads people to expect their new products should be extra amazing. Since people expect a new iPhone to be awesome, they notice, or invent, features that confirm that it is, indeed, awesome.
It’s a really fun demonstration of this cognitive bias: