By Tempest Wright, Staff Writer/Illustrator –  June 27, 2019

Confirming the Bias

According to Psychology Today, confirmation bias is when an individual forms an opinion and rejects or ignores information that conflicts with that opinion. Additionally, this person will instead seek out details that confirm what they already believe to be true instead of considering all sides of the matter. For example, if a friend who you’re on good terms with fails to return a phone call, you might assume that they are angry with you even if there’s no evidence to suggest this. It could be that the friend has just been busy and hasn’t had time to connect, but the assumption that they are upset seems more logical. While confirmation bias may damage close relationships, it has its advantages as a marketing tactic.

In business, companies create expectations that their consumers should have of them, and follow up by meeting those expectations exactly. This utilizes confirmation bias. For example, if a company boasts that its mobile devices run off a state-of-the-art operating system, this is what customers will expect when purchasing a phone or tablet. Then, when the device runs smoothly (whether or not it’s better than or equivalent to competitive manufacturers), its performance backs the company’s claims and confirms the consumer’s expectation – or their bias. Confirmation bias works so well in marketing because it’s easier to cater to a person’s already existing beliefs than it is to change their minds. Of course, this means that the product or service has to actually live up to the hype, but validation proves to be a better strategy than dissuasion.

How can confirmation bias misfire? According to Forbes, confirmation bias can work at the detriment of marketers who aren’t aware of their own biases. For example, bias can threaten a marketer’s perception when reviewing consumer feedback and reviews or responses to surveys. A person might unconsciously disregard negative feedback while cherry-picking the positive reviews, resulting in dissatisfaction among consumers and stagnation of the company’s growth.

Much of marketing requires a complex understanding of the human psyche. Confirmation bias is just one of many things to consider when drafting and executing a successful campaign. However, it’s up to marketers to observe these biases and other processes of the unconscious mind, and make sure their own work isn’t obscured.