Term Paper: How the Confirmation Bias Plays a Role in the Movie Doubt

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Confirmation Bias in Film Doubt

Confirmation Bias in the Movie "Doubt"

The film "Doubt" (2008) forces us to think about the difficult question of coping with our convictions which are hard to prove. The movie revolves around a dilemma: is Father Flynn guilty of conducting sexual relations with Donald, a black boy in the Catholic school where Father Flynn preaches, or is he a victim of a defamation campaign by Sister Aloysius who makes all efforts to prove Father Flynn's presumed guilt. The film does not give a clear answer and that is probably on purpose. The filmmakers leave it to viewers to decide whether Father Flynn is guilty or not. While we ponder about this question, there are important lessons to be learnt. One important lesson we can learn is how the concept of confirmation bias can play a decisive role in our decision to convict a person.

Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to look for evidences that confirm our earlier convictions and expectations rather than searching for evidences that may disconfirm our convictions. For example, a materialist expects that everyone in their heart is materialistic. So, even if this materialist analyzes the behavior of religious or altruistic persons, he or she is going to look for evidences confirming that all people act out of material needs and wants. Either purposefully, or without even realizing it, the materialist avoids looking at evidences that challenge his or her conviction that all persons are materialistic. A related concept is "positive test strategy." This concept refers to our tendency to test hypothesis by seeking confirming evidence. The two concepts are similar as in both cases we seek for confirmation of what we think rather than what in reality is there.

As soon as I saw Father Flynn making very friendly gestures toward children under his care, I began to suspect that he was a child sexual molester. There has been so much coverage of sex scandals in the Catholic Church in the media recently that I immediately assumed that Father Flynn was one of the child abusers. In other words, the media discussion of sex scandals in the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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