CONFIRMATION BIAS IN COMMITTEE DISCIPLINARY HEARINGS...... ( Article by Professor Hu Chi Ku Chi )
One rather intriguing topic regarding committee decisions in disciplinary hearings is the concept of confirmation bias. This concept is based on the theory that committee members do not fully analyse evidence that contradicts their preconceived notions about the accused's alleged misconduct. What would an independent observer make of a situation, where the expelled club member had come up against a committee, of which three or four of those sitting in judgement had already expressed strong views that he should have been slung out of the club years earlier. Clearly, these deeply entrenched preconceived notices add up to an extreme example of confirmation bias, especially when contradictory interpretations of the incriminating facts were quickly brushed aside and/or dismissed as irrelevant.
According to cognitive scientists there are two modes that individuals think in : intuitive and reflective. Most of time, committee members operate in an intuitive mode, which is the mode they use impressions, associations, and feelings in order to understand the incident as it is presented to them. The reflective mode would require them to take a deliberate look at the decisions they could take, the possible implications and consequences of those decisions, in order to arrive at an outcome that balances benefits with costs. This is a method of thinking that needs to be prevalently used in all disciplinary cases, especially when expulsion is up for consideration. Glossing over risks as ordinary could well jeopardise the more prudent view about about the likelihood or impact of a threat to sue the club ( or the members ), which in turn could well lead to serious financial risks.
Most commentators agree that individuals always fall victim to intuitive thought and cognitive biases within themselves. As human nature would have it, individuals cannot control their own biases and faulty logic, but they often have the desire and ability to point it out in others.
Sadly, committee members will continue to believe they have no reason to suspect their own motivated errors in decision making, even when they are driven by the self-interest ( or self-satisfaction ) to expel a member they are all desperate to see the back of ! People have a habit of falling in love with a decision which they can easily exaggerate its benefits. Such decisions always seem more justified if they are overly attached to the past history of the miscreant concerned. People regularly base their decisions too heavily on what has happened in the past, as opposed to what might flow from that decision in the future.
The majority view within a committee instinctively want to reject minority dissenting opinions, especially if they set out to expose the associated risks with that decision to expel as being far more serious. Yet the fact remains, when taking on a complex problem, there are many paths the committee can take. Therefore, it becomes necessary to analyse any strong dissenting views, especially about the likelihood and impact of a potential risk, before making any final decision. Caution is always warranted if only to ensure that one is not overconfident in risk assessment. To take the view that a potential threat of a law suit will simply " blow over " is both naive and foolish. Committees also need to be reminded of the economic theory of opportunity cost given that the decision to expel could easily turn into a costly legal bill.