Consider this scenario:

Andy believes all gay people are "flamboyant", because all gay people he has encountered in the past have met that perception.

In reality, Andy has met many gay people who he wouldn't describe as flamboyant, but he just assumed that they were straight.

In other words, all of the times Andy has met a "flamboyant" gay man, it confirmed his belief that gay men are flamboyant. All other gay men he's met, he did not realize are gay.

I do not believe this is confirmation bias, because Andy is not seeking out information to confirm his belief, it's just that the evidence that would contradict his belief is not readily apparent to him.

Is this a form of survivorship bias? Of those who "survived" his selection of being gay, all had the trait of flamboyancy. Those who did not "survive" this selection process are not taken into account.

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    I believe you misunderstand "confirmation bias". People with this bias do not actively seek out information (except perhaps from predictably biased sources) but instead (unconsciously) choose what information to observe or ignore, remember or forget, based on their biases. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 14 '17 at 1:13
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    PS: I don't think your question actually fits with the stated criteria for Skeptics questions. – Daniel R Hicks Nov 14 '17 at 1:14

Sounds like Sampling Bias to me.

Andy's mental sample of gay men is more likely to include flamboyant ones than non-flamboyant ones, leading to overrepresentation of flamboyant men in the sample.

It is indeed both: confirmation bias and survivorship bias. At least it can be interpreted this way.

Adding to this it is mainly circular reasoning based on confirmation bias:

the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. Confirmation bias is a variation of the more general tendency of apophenia.

But because Andy is special with special needs it is also a form of attentional bias:

The tendency of our perception to be affected by our recurring thoughts.

Why is Andy special? Not so much because of his obsessive gay-daring. Presumably, because he likely has "the tendency to see oneself as less biased than other people, or to be able to identify more cognitive biases in others than in oneself. Therefore he does not see a need for some other method than

The tendency to test hypotheses exclusively through direct testing, instead of testing possible alternative hypotheses. (Congruence bias)

Even after being pointed out to him that his reasoning isn't sound he will suffer the continued influence effect:

The tendency to believe previously learned misinformation even after it has been corrected. Misinformation can still influence inferences one generates after a correction has occurred.

That is because he is a conservative with accordingly

The tendency to revise one's belief insufficiently when presented with new evidence.

People in this group are susceptible to the ultimate attribution error:

Similar to the fundamental attribution error, in this error a person is likely to make an internal attribution to an entire group instead of the individuals within the group.

But this can be excused to a certain extent by proto-/stereotyping and bizarreness effect:

Bizarre material is better remembered than common material.

All hope is not lost for this kind of conservatism high though, mere exposure effect to the rescue:

The tendency to express undue liking for things merely because of familiarity with them

This list is not exhaustive. The best fitting category is the result of your frame of analysis: is it about Andy's behaviour, attitudes, information seeking, -processing, -interpretation? Real world data, base rate?


It depends on your focus to analyse this case. Based on the information given, both of your assumptive categories seem applicable. But there are more.

I think this is a subtle form of circular reasoning. Andy strongly believes gay men are flamboyant (not consciously), and therefore finds all gay men flamboyant (consciously).

In Bayesian terms, Andy's strong belief that gay men are flamboyant contributes to the probability that a person is gay given that they are not flamboyant.

This vicious cycle of reasoning could have started from overgeneralization. Andy might have met a few (or one) gay men who happened to be flamboyant which greatly strengthened his belief that gay men are flamboyant in general. Later when he meets a non-flamboyant gay man, he refuses to recognize him as gay because of this strong belief, hence the cycle persists.

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