Fooling ourselves and others : confirmation bias and the trustworthiness of qualitative research – Part 1 (the threats). / McSweeney, Brendan.

In: Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 34, No. 5, 01.07.2021, p. 1063-1075.

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
This open access research output is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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