Confirmation BiasLaura Savard and Mark Gallagher
Confirmation bias is a well-understood phenomenon that causes all of us (yes, that means all of us) to run information through highly personalized filters. This personal bias is created by the confluence of our genetics and our environment, so much so that our genes can predict our political affiliations.
Be it a product or a president, most of us make choices based on what we already believe. Without really considering them, we dismiss the facts that do not support our beliefs and readily accept those facts that do. In his post “Why Politics is Hard,” Rodger Dooley points out how surprisingly easy it was to sway liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans equally, simply by saying a liberal idea was invented by a conservative, and vice-versa. In both cases, people reported loving ideas that didn’t line up with their stated politics when told those ideas had come from their own political party.
Our biased acceptance of certain kinds of information allows us to feel good about the decisions we do make, be it to buy (or buy into) a product, a person or a policy. If information doesn’t make sense to us (what’s called cognitive dissonance), we reject it and label it as untrue.
“People’s convictions arise not from proofs supplied by the brain but prejudices amplified by the heart.” —William Bonner
Our news sources are brands every bit as much as Pepsi and Coke. They reflect and pronounce our values. You won’t find many conservatives reading the New York Times or many liberals spending Sundays watching Fox News. We choose news sources that stand for what we “know to be true” and against that which we oppose.
Cognitive bias is, of course, easy to see in others (and hard to see in ourselves). All of us make decisions that MAKE SENSE TO US on some level — why else would we make them? After all, we live in a world with LOTS and LOTS of information and choices — if we were to honestly and impartially consider all the data all the time, it’s likely we would never be able to make any decisions at all! (Cognitive bias can even be found in things as esoteric as art and music.)
WHAT’S THIS GOT TO DO WITH BRANDING?
Quite a bit, it turns out. While weaker brands appeal to base emotions, such as scarcity (it’s running out!), social proof (everyone else is doing it!), and authority (everyone knows that…), stronger brands appeal to both emotion and logic.
Here’s why: Emotion builds a connection and logic validates our decision to take action. That’s because in many ways a brand is a belief system (and people believe only what they want to believe). Simply put, when there is a conflict between data and desire (fact and emotion), good branding offers a bridge. We bet you can name at least a dozen brands whose entire business is built on offering consumers this bridge.
We often say, “People don’t buy brands that they like. They buy brands that are like them.” Do you have a Mac or PC? Or perhaps you run Linux? Did you have a relative who loved Fords but thought Chevys were junk? Cognitive fluency means people prefer things that are easy to think about. This is why we either disregard the bad press about Apple’s new maps app (if we just bought and love our new iPhone 5), or revel in its flaws (if we’re the proud owner of the latest Android phone).
In short, we weigh information, but we all have our thumbs on the scale.
NOTE: While we attempt to respond to every comment, we ARE NOT interested in turning this into a political debate and will politely stay out of the muck and meyer.