That 'knowledge' is structural is fairly uncontroversial. Although there are certainly different types, I would like for sake of this question to characterize (what I see as) a generalization of the concept: Knowledge are familiarity or understanding of particular items of experience. It can be communicated, though not always perfectly, and thus are sometimes "fuzzy" (people may have slightly different ideas about the facts). The more structured, the less fuzzy knowledge becomes, but then less facts are accommodated by such a structure.

When we think of "Confirmation bias" it is usually in terms of an error of induction, or a psychological propensity to misconstrue. However I would like to likewise expand and generalize the idea: In the case of psychological propensity it manifests at many different levels, from the interpretation of language to sense perception. Confirmation bias is (loosely) fitting knowables into some structure established by prior "knowledge". (If one is fanciful one may even make a case for probability distributions and other quantum phenomena)

“In visual perception, you have a process that suppresses ambiguity, so that a single interpretation is chosen, and you’re not aware of the ambiguity.” - Daniel Kahneman

Now without getting into a very long tirade, this is the hypothesis I got to:

Knowledge structures are formed by Confirmation bias.

Edit: From some of the references I've come to realize that my use of "comfirmation bias" need to be better elucidated. There is a phenomenon/process, recognizable as the same, and most apparent in the guise of confirmation bias in the areas of sociology and psychology, but also in the physical and metaphysical that for the sake of this question I will call Existential Normalization (EN). EN is then a reification of this phenomenon as distinct from knowledge, and knowledge structures, and operating on all levels from social constructs down to the aggregations of matter.

Note that now "confirmation bias" has changed from a somewhat vexing phenomenon into a sort of ontological entity. Knowledge is structured fact which is formed by EN, which is informed by Knowledge. A triad of concepts that allows for what IS to become MORE.

Question: Has anybody done something along these lines?

Why is this interesting? Most creatures aren't aware of their own biases, an awareness of one's own confirmation bias are likely a first step to Self-awareness. Also think of a DNA sequence as "knowledge"...

  • Again this sounds very Kantian, the patterns we get out of experience are the ones we ourselves put into it. Making those patterns relative to the priors makes it neo-Kantian, but "confirmation bias" is not used this way. You can look at Friedman's relativized a priori, and fallibilistic apriorism generally.
    – Conifold
    Nov 1 '19 at 23:29
  • @Conifold Fallibilism certainly shares a core conception of "knowledge" with the premise of this question. Your linked answer mentions how the notion of a priori has changed; what I'm asking about here could be said to be a principle or a mechanism that would act to limit the rate of change, if knowledge had mass this would be gravity.
    – christo183
    Nov 5 '19 at 9:28
  • The evolution of a priori is a side issue. What I meant is that relativized a priori are exactly the "confirmation bias" and the "gravity" you are looking for. They are the structuring patterns/principles used to shape new knowledge, and change much slower than that which they shape. The stuff paradigms are made of, if you will.
    – Conifold
    Nov 5 '19 at 9:35
  • @Conifold Thanks, I see. So Reichenbach and Friedman, any others? Did they take knowledge to be only declarative? Did anyone try to make a case for relativized a priori, or more likely a precursor concept, being somehow metaphysical, pre-linguistic or observer independent?
    – christo183
    Nov 5 '19 at 10:42
  • 1
    Look at Mormann's recent survey Toward a Theory of the Pragmatic A Priori: From Carnap to Lewis and Beyond. Of course, Kuhn also comes to mind, and the elaboration on him by Lakatos.
    – Conifold
    Nov 6 '19 at 6:36

The basic concept as outlined is well-represented in philosophy, though no one I know of uses this particular terminology. 'Confirmation bias' is a modern term — mid-20th century — and is mostly used in psychology, with a few ports to the philosophy of science. But the idea that knowledge is built from imperfect structures is implicit at least back to Hegel (where the notion of a dialectic works with it explicitly), and arguably all the way back to Plato's theory of forms (where it is the philosopher's job to see through the imperfect manifest structures to understand the perfect form behind it).

Certainly critical theorists are constantly working with biases and skewed knowledge structures. I'd guess the epitome of that work would be Gadamer's "Truth and Method", where he argues that all knowledge structures are bounded and localized: that we come to understand the world as though we were standing in a valley surrounded by mountains. Not only do we not know what lies beyond the horizon of those mountains, we may have no common understandings at all with someone raised in a different valley.

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