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What is information bias in research?

Last updated

19 November 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Information bias occurs when people seek out information that supports their existing beliefs. While it’s usually subconscious, its impacts are significant. It can cloud a researcher’s judgment and decision-making processes.

Find out more about information bias and how it impacts research.

What is information bias?

Information bias refers to the tendency to gather or interpret information selectively. It causes someone’s perception of reality to be distorted.

Information bias occurs when people have access to a broad range of information but choose only certain sources that align with their preexisting beliefs or biases. This bias can lead to an incomplete and skewed understanding of an issue or topic, as crucial information may be overlooked or dismissed.

For example, someone who is politically inclined toward a particular party might only consume news from sources that reinforce their viewpoint while disregarding other perspectives. This selectiveness limits their exposure to diverse viewpoints, perpetuating polarization and misinformation.

What are the types of information bias?

The following are types of information bias:

Confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is a common bias where you actively seek information that aligns with your preexisting beliefs and opinions.

It can occur in the medical field. For example, a doctor might disregard data that goes against their initial diagnosis. Instead, they might focus only on the evidence that supports their viewpoint. This confirmation bias can lead to a misdiagnosis or delayed treatment for the patient.

Similarly, in investments or business planning, professionals may selectively consider data that aligns with their preferred strategy and ignore contrasting information. The potential impacts of confirmation bias in this example are poor business outcomes and missed opportunities.

Recall bias

This bias occurs when your memory fails you, leading to inaccuracies or selective recall of information that can distort your perceptions.

Recall bias can influence how study participants respond when asked to recall information from memory. Their responses may not be accurate, which can impact the study’s conclusions and outcomes.

Publication bias

In publication bias, certain studies or research findings are published based on their results rather than their scientific merit. This can skew the overall knowledge base in a particular direction.

What causes information bias?

Both non-differential and differential misclassification can cause information bias.

Non-differential misclassification occurs when there’s an equal probability of misclassifying information between different groups, leading to a random error that affects the data’s accuracy. This can be due to improper data collection methods, faulty measurement tools, or human error during data entry.

Differential misclassification arises when the probability of misclassifying information varies between different groups. This results in systematic errors that introduce bias into the final analysis. Differential misclassification can occur due to factors such as differences in access to healthcare or different diagnostic criteria being used for different populations.

Identifying and addressing these sources of bias is vital for researchers and professionals to ensure accurate and reliable data. Accurate, reliable data enables researchers to make informed decisions and draw valid conclusions in many fields, such as medicine, social sciences, and public health.

How to minimize information bias

Here are four good starting points for minimizing information bias:

  1. Diversify the sources of information accessed. Relying on one or two sources alone increases the risk of bias, as each source may have an agenda or limitations. Seeking multiple perspectives brings a broader understanding of the subject matter and allows for well-rounded decision-making.

  2. Actively challenge your own biases by questioning assumptions and relying on data-driven evidence rather than personal opinions or preconceived notions. Critical thinking skills play a vital role in consciously recognizing informational biases and minimizing their impact.

  3. Use fact-checking tools and peer reviews. This can enhance accuracy and help you disregard false or misleading information during decision-making processes.

  4. Fostering an open culture where colleagues feel comfortable challenging each other’s ideas can help mitigate confirmation bias in teams. It also ensures that teams consider different viewpoints before making a final decision.

Other types of research bias

Here are the other types of bias you may come across in research:

  • Selection bias occurs when the individuals or groups selected for the study don’t represent the target population. This leads to skewed results.

  • Measurement bias arises when the tools used to measure variables don’t accurately capture the constructs being studied. This leads to incorrect interpretations.


What is an example of negative information bias?

Consider a manager or supervisor who consistently focuses on and highlights an employee’s mistakes or failures rather than their successes and achievements. This is an example of negative information bias. This biased approach distorts the overall perception of the employee’s performance, leading to demoralization, low self-esteem, and decreased motivation.

Managers unknowingly create a culture of negativity in the workplace by excessively emphasizing negative aspects, such as pointing out errors during discussions or frequently criticizing minor issues without offering constructive feedback or recognition for a job well done.

Employees may refrain from taking risks or pursuing innovative ideas due to fear of unwarranted criticism. This ultimately hinders creativity and productivity.

What’s the difference between information bias and selection bias?

Information bias and selection bias are two distinct types of bias in research studies.

Information bias refers to a systematic error that occurs due to the way data is collected, measured, or interpreted. It can result from faulty instruments, interviewer prejudice, recall bias, or misclassification of variables, among other factors.

Information bias can cause associations between variables to be estimated incorrectly. It can also compromise the .

Selection bias arises when study participants don’t adequately represent the target population. It often occurs during the participant recruitment process and can be caused by self-selection, non-response, or exclusion criteria that favor certain individuals over others.

Selection bias undermines external validity because it limits generalizability beyond the sample studied.

What is an example of bias in qualitative research?

Researcher bias is an example of bias in qualitative research. It occurs when the researcher’s personal beliefs, values, and experiences influence the design, collection, analysis, and interpretation of data.

This type of bias can manifest in various ways. For example, the researcher’s preconceived notions about the topic may cause them to ask leading questions during interviews or focus only on information that confirms their existing beliefs.

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