The influence of stimulus valence on confirmation bias in children

Pauline Dibbets*, Cor Meesters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: The aim of the present study was to replicate our previous study and to further examine the relation between fear and positive and negative confirmation bias in children.

METHODS: Fifty-three non-clinical children (9-13 years) were shown pictures of a kindly-perceived (quokka) and a dangerous-looking (aye aye) animal. For each animal, levels of fear and information seeking patterns were obtained.

RESULTS: The results indicated that the aye aye was rated as more threatening and less kind than the quokka. For the aye aye more negative than neutral or positive information was selected; no differences were observed for the quokka. Regardless of type of animal, higher fear levels coincided with more search for negative information. Positive confirmation bias in the quokka was indirectly observed as low fear levels were associated with an increased search for positive information. Finally, for the quokka searching negative information coincided with an increase in the scariness of the quokka; this pattern was absent for the aye aye.

LIMITATIONS: Though the results are informative, no clinically anxious children were tested, a positive beliefs questionnaire was lacking and children were forced to select one of the presented answer alternatives.

CONCLUSIONS: The present study indicates that the mere perception of danger can trigger confirmation bias; a positive view can, in case of low fear levels, result in increased search for positive information. Additionally, a relation was observed between increased negative attitude and search for negative information. The results, implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-92
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Fear
  • Confirmation bias
  • Children
  • Threat
  • Stimulus valence
  • FEAR


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