Fooling ourselves and others: confirmation bias and the trustworthiness of qualitative research – Part 1 (the threats)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – To describe the implicit epistemic flaw of “confirmation bias” and to illustrate and evaluate the threats to qualitative research trustworthiness from that bias.
Design/methodology/approach – The article overviews evidence and analysis from a wide range of disciplines. The adverse effect of three varieties of confirmation bias is described in some detail in illustrative examples.
Findings – It is argued that the threats from the bias go to the heart of the research. A subsequent article summarizes and critiques counter-arguments.
Practical implications – Discussions and illustrations of varieties of confirmation bias can increase awareness of the unwitting bias and reduce its influence.
Social implications – The bias not only threatens the trustworthiness of academic and other professional research but also underpins much ideological extremism, the effectiveness of post-truth politics and inter- and intra-group conflict. These are directly discussed in the article.
Originality/value – The article extends and enriches descriptions of threats to the trustworthiness of qualitative from confirmation bias. Such threats are inadequately recognized in many qualitative research arenas. It identifies a previously unrecognized variety of confirmation bias: hollow citations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1063-1075
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Organizational Change Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • qualitative research, confirmation bias, alternative explanations, hollow citations

Cite this