Confirmatory Bias and the Next Gen Console Debate


This following quote studies confirmatory bias as it relates to U.S. government politics. Now, rather than a U.S. presidental election between Bush and Kerry, substitute the console war between the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Sound familiar?

During the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, while undergoing an fMRI bran scan, 30 men–half self-described as “strong” Republicans and half as “strong” Democrats–were tasked with assessing statements by both George W. Bush and John Kerry in which the candidates clearly contradicted themselves. Not surprisingly, in their assessments Republican subjects were as critical of Kerry as Democratic subjects were of Bush, yet both let their own candidate off the hook.

The neuroimaging results, however, revealed that the part of the brain most associated with reasoning–the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex–was quiescent. Most active were the orbital frontal cortex, which is involved in the processing of emotions; the anterior cingulate, which is associated with conflict resolution; the posterior cingulate, which is concerned with making judgments about moral accountability; and–once subjects had arrived at a conclusion that made them emotionally comfortable–the ventral striatum, which is related to reward and pleasure.

Many people claim that they like one console and dislike another for completely rational reasons: price, games, features, reviews, bugs, etc.

However, most people tend to form a mostly emotional preference where they want one console platform to win and want the other to lose, and simply use data and facts and logical sounding reasons to rationalize their preference.

Original Article by Michael Shermer
EconLog post on the subject


Written by: Darrin - Contributing Editor


  1. #1 by Mike on December 26th, 2006

    People are pretty illogical when it comes to things that are supposed to be mere hobbies. I can sort of understand automobile fans being diehards since it is such a huge investment, but it makes little sense for things like games, and even worse, people arguing over HD disc formats.

    It really works both ways. At this rate I am likely to get an XBOX 360 before PS3 because it will have a price drop first and a decent lineup of $20 – $30 games. At the same time, I won’t jump on the Blu-Ray bandwagon until it has distanced itself from HD-DVD, but it seems like that will happen since it is a better format with much better studio support. Buying an HD disc player and then bemoaning the fact that Fox and MGM movies won’t be available for it doesn’t make any sense.

    Look at where the software is going, and then make your hardware purchasing decisions. It’s a lot easier and a lot less expensive that way.

  2. #2 by Darrin on December 26th, 2006 [ 17143 Points ]

    I actually don’t think it’s illogical.

    People often like or dislike the Microsoft software and technology platform as a whole. Most people like some Microsoft products and dislike others, but most people ultimately want the Microsoft software platform as a whole to grow or shrink. This isn’t an illogical decision; many people have staked their careers into Microsoft technologies or other technologies in direct competition with Microsoft. And there are thousands of valid reasons for loving or hating various technologies.

    The video game console is clearly a strategic point in the battles of technical standards, leverage, and mindshare. That’s why Microsoft is so heavily investing in it from a financial perspective.

  3. #3 by Sporty on December 26th, 2006 [ 95 Points ]

    Mike’s reasoning for leaning towards 360 and waiting on a HD disk format are logical but most people dont think that way. A lot of people are simple minded. You can see this on nearly all forums that discuss systems. And it’s now bleeding into stores and media.

    Too many idiots are drama queens. Almost makes you want to avoid gaming related news sites.

  4. #4 by Gary on December 26th, 2006 [ 1780 Points ]

    Darrin please check your drafts. There’s a post in there that needs your input asap. :)

  5. #5 by Mike on December 26th, 2006

    Oh I understand that there is a great deal more at stake with what the companies are trying to accomplish with these systems. I am particularly annoyed with MS pushing HD-DVD because of a reason that has nothing to do with movies or games: data storage. In a year or two when HD disc burners are reasonably priced, I want the format that holds the most data. Did anybody keep buying 650MB CD-R’s to back up their files when 700MB discs were widely available? There isn’t enough of a jump in storage space from a 8.4 GB dual-layer DVD-R to a single layer HD-DVD to justify the hardware cost of the blank media prices. But if I can go to 25 GB on a single layer and significantly cut down on the number of discs I’d have to use to back up important (or less than important… I’ve got a lot of crap on my hard drive) files, it will be worth the investment of the new burner and the blank media costs (which will drop in price as blank DVD-R did, assuming HD-DVD doesn’t hang around long enough to make both formats irrelevant). And since TDK has demonstrated the ability for Blu-Ray to have up to four layers (100GBs) this is a format that can grow in terms of how much space is available to consumers as the prices drops over the years (yes years, just CD-R and DVD-R).

    In what is a bit of irony, the other reason I’m interested in XB360 is because Microsoft themselves are killing PC gaming. They don’t put out a lot of games like Halo until years after the console release, and I’d rather just pop a BioShock disc into a 360 than upgrade my XP installation to windows Vista and have to deal with the RAM footprint or all of the DRM crap involved with that (P)OS (a new monitor to play certain HD video formats… zuh?)

    Combine that with the fact that games like VF5 are going to show up on the system and it’s too much to resist at a price point of $300 next summer (assuming they do reasonable price drops, if not, I’ll be playing PS2 even further into the future than I imagined).

    In another twist of Irony, Sony doing such a good job supporting PS2 is sort of what has allowed XB360 to gain a foothold, establish a userbase, and make it an attractive option for ports from desperate companies like Sega (Sammy can’t rely on Pachinko forever, can they?). Microsoft dropped Xbox like a ton of bricks in 2005, and Nintendo to a lesser extent did the same with Gamecube, but at least threw a bone by not completely canceling the GC version of Zelda. So while PS2 just keeps chugging along (I still have to get Yakuza, Bully, a bunch of other games, and God of War II comes in the spring) the other companies had no reason to continue to support non-competitive consoles and left the respective users with door stops while they try to establish their new formats.

    The above explanation probably makes no sense so I’ll put it like this: Microsoft mucking up PCs with Vista and putting XB360 out a year earlier than it should have been released has in a roundabout way made 360 the most attractive option for people who don’t want to blow a ton of cash on a system capable of next-gen graphics. Between that and the number of viral marketers and brand trolls they employ (that Ozymindias guy or whatever the hell he calls himself is unbelievable, and Major Nelson isn’t much better, not to mention Bungie’s PR shill that trolls every forum in existence… ) it almost feels wrong to reward these jerks with a purchase but I can’t argue with being able to play VF5, Bioshock (I’m a big Irrational homer, they’re the one good Boston-based development team) GTA4, and Halo 3 on my Bravia HDTV for a hardware purchase of $300 sometime in the second half of next year. I’ll just hold my nose when I purchase and laugh at the fact that their overpriced office suite is footing the bill for my weekend entertainment habits.

    I’ll definately get a PS3 at least by the time MGS4 comes out (I’m hoping the 20GB version is $399 by then, including HDMI in that unit was the best PS3 news all year for me) but it’s pricey right now, and go figure, the one pure gaming company (Nintendo) is taking things in a gimmicky, low-tech direction that I can’t get behind. Wii sports outselling Zelda in Japan was the final nail in the coffin for Japanese game development and the only Eastern titles I’m actually interested in at this point are FFXIII, VF5, and MGS4. Yet another Irony: Nintendo dragging Japanese game development into low-tech, lacking-in-fun hell is another feather in Xbox’s cap since it will have the best Western developer support of all three systems.

    So yeah, three or four very bizarre circumstances have led to XB360 being the most attractive option to me, and for all the wrong reasons. Well done, Microsoft. :-(

  6. #6 by Darrin on December 26th, 2006 [ 17143 Points ]

    Nice post Mike. I agree with most of your points except that all the great 360 games aren’t coming out until 2007. And the $300 360 is a terrible choice with absolutely no hard drive. And the $500 PS3 is very price competitive with the $400 360; especially given that the former includes online play and a blu-ray drive, while the latter requires expensive add-ons for that functionality. I know people are sick of going over these same points yet again, but I can’t resist.

  7. #7 by Mike on December 26th, 2006

    I meant the version of 360 with a hard disk dropping to $299 by next Summer, which I hope is the case. There’s no way I’d get the core version, those 64MB memory cards are a horrible value.

  8. #8 by Gary on December 26th, 2006 [ 1780 Points ]

    Excellent post, Mike. That’s the kind of logic more people should use when making the move to the next-gen.

    I’m assuming you mean the Premium 360 dropping to $300, and if that happens then that is a very good price for the 20GB 360 but Sony ‘could’ counter that by dropping the price of the 20GB PS3 and if that happens then the argument will still persist in comparing the 20GB PS3 with the 20GB 360.

    However, there’s a lot of water to pass under the bridge before any of that happens but you’re planning on getting both systems so you will enjoy the best of both worlds. You win both ways.

    The next-gen disc war is a different kettle of fish and it will more than likely be a couple of years before a ‘winner’ can be decided, if one at all.

    As I’ve said before, at least with BD, Sony is using it for PS3 games so if it fails as a medium for movies it’s not totally useless. HD-DVD is something that MS has tacked on as an extra for the 360 so it doesn’t have as many avenues for it to succeed. The PS3 will play some part in BD success or failure so it’s an interesting issue that won’t be resolved in the near future which is a shame for us consumers, because we can’t take the risk in backing one format in-case it fails.

    People may not want a BD drive in a PS3 but it’s there and it makes for a damn cheap BD player if BD wins the war against HD-DVD.

  9. #9 by Sporty on December 26th, 2006 [ 95 Points ]

    If your waiting for a 360 price drop I would be surprised if we get anything more then $50 this spring.

    At least with the GT HD demo being dropped online free this last week some of the media sites are getting slightly more postive on PS3 seeing the insane level of detail from that.

  10. #10 by WonderSteve on December 26th, 2006

    Great post Mike!

    Totally agree with you on the HD disc part. That’s the same reason I’ve been telling my friends why I perfer Blu-ray over HD-DVD.

    I have a Wii right now. I got it because of Zelda. To be honest I am a little disappointed with the third party support it has right now and 2007. The only games I am looking forward to are Fire Emblem and SSBB. FFCC is also my consideration since all friends have DS. I also don’t get why people hype up Wii sports so much. It’s interesting and cool at all. But in no way it is a good game after playing it for many hours. And Nintendo didn’t give that game out for free in NA. The NA’s Wii price is 79 dollars more than Japan. I rather have the Wii for 200 dollars without the Wii sports.

  11. #11 by ehandlr on December 26th, 2006

    In the end…we learn the customer is not always right, generally knows very little or fabricates what they do know, always think they are right. Regardless of how many intelligent counter points or facts you offer, the consumer will not budge from their stance.

    It was a very interesting read indeed.

  12. #12 by Pc on December 26th, 2006

    If you check out all the other blog sites floating around the web today, you can’t help but notice that just about everybody posting comments is just a tad bit bias is some form or faahion. I have personally owned all systems to date except the ones that never took off at all (ex: jaguar), and i base my opinions on what is truly the best. I read reviews and i do my own research every time before i buy or say something to other people.
    Ohhhh…one more thing…..seems like $599 isn’t shit to pay these days when you want the best !!! My step mom just so happened to have bought my brothers a PS3 on EBAY of all choices for around $750 or some shit with an extra controller and game. Their not rich and they don’t usually just spend that kind of money on an electrical device. Seems as though all tha bullshit that’s been going on around the web about Sony from nintendo and xbox fanboys really doesn’t reach too many people’s ears, or they don’t give a damn because Playstation is the shit !!!!! After playing Resistance and a few other games all lastnight and today, i can honestly say that Resistance is the best shooter to date and certainly the best launch title ever made !!!! All of that hype about Gears was crap. All the xbox fanboys will say…”but it has waaayy better graphics” Gears does have better graphics, but not that much better and everything thing else about Resistance is way better than Gears. Resistance is sooo badass that my whole family came into the room to watch and everybody was goin crazy (had the surround sound goin and all)…..we were only playing it on a 19″ sdtv :(, but it was still better than Gears on an hd set. The PS3 is a deffinately a must buy and i can already tell that it will have the best games ever made !!!!

  13. #13 by matt on December 27th, 2006

    First. Mike an excellent post that sums up the console war for a lot of people. It is nice to see how people pick the first console they purchase when the plan on buying all of them. You seem to be a bargain gamer that picks up titles months after release but pay much less over the consoles life cycle to enjoy the same games.

    The only thing I think you may be wrong about is Microsoft killing PC gaming. I think they are on the right track by making Games for Windows a common box label. With Vista they are trying to make the install and update process obsolete. Microsoft wins because they cover the console market with their Xbox line and they are trying to overtake the PC market with Games for Windows. The great PC games they may try to make exclusive to the Xbox line (which benefits me greatly because I am not able to game with a PC due to physical problems with my hands).

    PC how old are you? The best launch title in recent memory is Halo (much better than resistance). The best launch title ever IMO is Super Mario Brothers. Resistance is a good game. It does nothing special but does the FPS genre very well. It is far from the best launch title ever. Other notable launch titles are Sonic the hedgehog, Super Mario World, Mario 64, and god knows what else. this is what I came up with in 30 seconds of thought. I was there for all of those games and will be there for the future systems for many years to come.

    You also seem to base you “informed opinion” on one or two people every post. I atleast try to get around 20 people when I say something about the general public. Even then the 20 people I know means nothing to the overall market.

    You have surround sound and a 19″ SDTV? I smell poopie coming from your mouth. I highly doubt you have owned all consoles. You are also judging graphics on a 19″ SDTV? What is wrong with you! I own a 50″ DLP HDTV and my surround sound setup is well into the thousands of dollars. Even my setup is not worthy of all comparisons that are made between the 360 and PS3 graphics and you are comparing the systems on a 19″?

    I don’t think you ever owned a 360. All the things you say seem like the garbage I read on other forums that are filled with fanboys spreading junk. Even Henning who runs this site and favors the PS3 by a large margin will give the 360 some credit. He just prefers the PS3 and doesn’t plan on getting the 360.

    Sorry for the rant but PC has been getting under my skin for a while now and I just wanted to call him out on it.

  14. #14 by Sporty on December 27th, 2006 [ 95 Points ]

    Microsoft can’t do anything about games on PC trying to make them Xbox exclusive. That sector isn’t regulated and doesn’t require licensing. MS doens’t have any authority over PC other then the software they themselves make. If they tried it would be another Anti-trust case and a bloodbath.

    However Sonic the hedgehog wasn’t a launch title for Genesis, Altered beast was, Sonic was released a year later when SNES launched.

    Although I do think Halo was a decent game. If you say Resistance did nothing new you also have to say that about Halo. It wasn’t innovatove really. It was when it was announced but after Half-life was released it didn’t push the envelope farther. No online play. a ton of same looking corrador crawling.drive was done already in HL. Dont get me wrong, I think it’s a decent game but No Quake, Doom or Half-life. Just another FPS.

  15. #15 by Darrin on December 27th, 2006 [ 17143 Points ]

    Sporty, Microsoft is intentionally making their big games Xbox exclusive and paying other developers to do the same. Also, outside of MMO’s, this was the worst year for PC gaming in recent memory; their Games for Windows marketing campaign has done nothing.

    matt, don’t take that stuff too seriously. Most of us here are huge PS3 fans and prefer that to the competition, but the other consoles definitely have their strengths and we try to avoid blatant bashing.

  16. #16 by Segitz on December 27th, 2006 [ 1470 Points ]

    Now its my turn!

    So… I am no interested in the 360, because nearly all games are either available on the PS3 or the PC. As I need a pretty good PC for work (CAD and 3D Modelling) I can at least play nearly all games. As mostly only FPS really push the hardware and I am not that interested in that genre, I dont need that big of a gaming rig after all… Theres really no exclusive on the 360 that !! I !! am interested in. When my brother got the PS1, I was still well in Amiga and Genesis land and didnt care much about gaming. Then he got Tekken 3, Gran Turismo and Resident Evil 2, I was will into it ^^. The N64 was my choice back then, but I never got it… Time passed and the PS2 came to Germany, which I got only little time after launch (back when it still was 869DM) and Then I got Gran Tursimo 3 and Metal Gear 2… I loved it. XBox came with Halo… Another FPS. Not for me. Most games I prefer are RTS like Command and Conquer or Company of Heroes, which nearly never get released for consoles (except the LOTR thing for the 360, which controlwise pretty much sucked).

    So, to make the long story short, theres nearly no game the 360 has for me, but the PS3 has. I also LOVE the Linux support for it (Have been using and trying out Linux since Suse 7 came out, which was in 2000 iirc) and the BDROM (DVD collector, Hi Def freak).

    As I also have the PSP, which is a really nice toy (I dont play much with it, but homebrew and video support) which is also only really compatible with PS3.

    (Just spilled coke over my keyboard… still working though)

    Dont get me wrong, I think the 360 is a good system, hardwarewise, but I has nothing to offer to !! ME !!. To American, too many FPS and action games, costly addons and no free online play kill this system for me.

  17. #17 by Pc on December 27th, 2006

    Lol Matt…. your hilarious !!! I’m 23 and my brothers do have surround sound hooked up, but a rather small tv (a sony sdtv). Halo paled in comparison to Resistance btw (but was good for the xbox) and mario bros was fun back in 85, but was by no means a killer launch title. The only reason it did well at all is because the atari sucked and people wanted something better. Of course the game will do great if its decent and comes with the system. I know about all the systems and games coming out for them and have also owned every system to date that was worth a damn, plus why would i lie about owning a shitty xbox 360, even though i should because it sucked and broke after a few months of owning it !!! Only a bias fanboy would get mad about me ranting about how good the PS3 and Resistance was on a PS3 blog site !! Why are you here exactly ??? Good to hear that i got under your skin, that tells me your bias in some way because why else would you get mad about me talking good about the PS3 on a PS3 site !!! Ohhh….I’ll repeat this just incase you didnt understand…..Resistance looked good on a 19″ sony sdtv which means that it looks damn good on a hdtv obviously. Do you even own a PS3 or do you just base your opinions on shit you read??? Resistance has more online options than any good fps on 360 and what the game does, it does extremely well ( ohhh..and Resistance online has less lag than any other fps to date..almost no lag at all..ever)?? The same can’t be said for other fps’s (even halo 2 had horrible lag online and had waaayyy less people playing at one time….Resistance can handle up to 40 players which i believe is a first for consoles)….where some fps’s do well, they also do poorly in other areas. I read, talk and play before i open my mouth and i’ve played games ever since Nintendo arrived on the scene..so yeah…i know a little about games . One last thing…..I don’t call people out like you try to do….i simply agree or disagree with people’s opinions based on gaming…that’s were supposed to do on blog sites….the fact is though, this is a PS3 site….not nintendo or xbox…so why in the hell am i going to say anything good about any other system ??? PS3 ROCKS !!!!

  18. #18 by Pc on December 27th, 2006

    Ooops…forgot to remind matt that the PS3 was my brothers and we were all playing on his 19″sdtv…mine is 32″..still not hd, but has component in :) we were playing though composite on his little tv and it still looked damn good !!!

  19. #19 by matt on December 27th, 2006

    PC now I can skip any of your post forever. You obviously know nothing about gaming history and your ignorance about the current consoles is funny. Halo 2 Lag? (switch to cable internet) and there is more people on Resistance online than Halo 2? (please sell me what you are smoking). Halo 2 sold 2,500,000 million copies on launch day alone. The vast majority of those people were online that day. That is more Halo 2 games than the PS3 has consoles. I have spent more time online the last few years and have had almost no problems with lag. The times it does happen is poor programming or a bad internet connection.

    I have spent a lot of time with all of the consoles since you asked.

    I am on this site because I will own a PS3 when there is more games available that I want to play. I usually pick up the first console of each generation and get the later ones a year or so after launch. The first one I buy at launch so I can try the next gen. Then I have to go through the game droughts that follow. The newer systems go through the same growing pains and I wait them out. No point buying all three systems at launch at full price when there just isn’t enough titles. I can always get the older games when the systems have their first price drop.

  20. #20 by nerds! on December 27th, 2006

    uhhh, he meant that halo 2 only supported 16 simultaneous players, while resistance supports 40.

    you guys should chill out… play some video games or something.

  21. #21 by Segitz on December 27th, 2006 [ 1470 Points ]

    To be true, PC wasnt that wrong with the Mario reference.

    Nintendo had no whatsoever competition back then, as Atari was done for, because the VCS 2600 was too old and the 5200 was not backwards compatible (most games didnt work right, although it was said, it does) and had no real games.

    Mario was ok, no doubt, I liked it too (even though I didnt have a nintendo home console myself, EVER, only a gameboy, thats it), but that great of a launch title it wasnt. (It was NO launch title in Japan, it launched with Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. and Popeye, essentielly 3 identical games!!).

    And, concerning Sonys bad launch numbers… The SNES had an initial launch number of 300000 :D Small innit?

  22. #22 by ehandlr on December 28th, 2006 [ 44542 Points ]

    correct me if I’m wrong…but Halo does not use dedicated servers do they? I know Resistance does as lag is never a factor.

  23. #23 by Charlie on August 2nd, 2007

    Hey guys, I’ve been following this thread as a form of research. You see I just bought (three days ago) an amazing Westinghouse 37″ HDTV (that supports 1080i but not 1080p) and I love it. I haven’t bought a console system since the 3DO (and boy was that a bad choice). I want the next level, but something that will fully show off the tv. I’ve been convinced, at various times, of each console (XB360, PS3, and Wii) but I’m really left unsure of what to get. I’ve heard that the PS3′s hardware is much farther from being maxed out than the 360′s, so perhaps I’m leaning in that direction.
    Any advice you guys can give a low-tech guy with hi-tech gear? MUCH appreciated!

  24. #24 by Darrin on August 2nd, 2007 [ 17143 Points ]

    Welcome to the site Charlie.

    To show off a new HD TV?

    I’d recommend some good blu-ray titles (especially Planet Earth). For games I’d pick the free GT:HD. Motorstorm is probably the best flashy game on the PS3 at the moment, but the really big flashy games are hitting in the next few months: GTA4, Mercs 2, Ratchet & Clank, Call of Duty 4, UT3, Home, and GT Prologue are good picks for showy software.

    You picked an old thread to comment on, btw.


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