Confirmation Bias in General Aviation Lost Procedures


Andrew Gilbey, School of Aviation, Massey University, New Zealand.



Pilots, students and orienteers completed three tasks in which they imagined that they were lost. For each task, participants were provided with a map and instructed to select one of three provided features to help them decide if they were at a certain (incorrect) location. One feature was unique to the correct location; the other two features were consistent with locations in both the incorrect location and the correct location. The unique feature was therefore the ‘correct’ choice to make. Only orienteers chose the unique feature at a rate significantly higher than chance; all other groups performed either at or worse than expected by chance. Attempts to increase the rate of disconfirming choices were largely ineffective. Findings suggest that when they are lost, both pilots and psychology students, but not orienteers, adopt a confirmatory approach to ascertain their location, which may put pilots who are already lost at even greater risk. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.