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Confirmation Bias

The Big Idea for Monday, December 09, 2013

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. So wrote the ancient Greek poet Archilochus. The British philosopher Isaiah Berlin played what he called "an intellectual game" with this idea in his essay "The Hedgehog and the Fox."

In today's lesson, Jag Bhalla uses this metaphor to scrutinize the different experts we see making predictions all the time. As it turns out, it is the hedgehogs - those who think the world follows simple rules, and prefer a grand unified theory - who tend to be the media darlings who get the most attention. Unfortunately, since Hedgehogs tend to squeeze evidence into their pet theories and then discount whatever doesn’t fit, they tend to be pretty bad at forecasting, barely beating “dart-throwing chimps.” 

Empirically driven foxes, on the other hand, believe the world is complex and distrust grand theories. While they get less attention than the hedgehogs, Bhalla argues they are a much better bet. Moreover, "we should be wary of experts with a single model," he writes, as "models are hedgehog thinking incarnated."


  1. 1 Beware The One Trick Hedgehog
    Jag Bhalla Errors We Live By
  2. 2 Errol Morris on Confirmation Bias
    Errol Morris
  3. 3 You Need to Take Personal Responsibility for the Information You Consume
    Clay Johnson In Their Own Words
  4. 4 Your Social Life: Are You a Fox or a Hedgehog?
    Pamela Haag Harpy's Review

Confirmation Bias

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