Why people deny facts

One of the biases in Behavioural Science is called the Confirmation Bias, which refers to the tendency to search for, interpret, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs.  

A professor from the University of Winnipeg conducted a psychology experiment to better understand this bias.  After the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, Professor Frimer randomly selected 200 Americans to participate in his experiment.  


Two groups were established: one who favoured same-sex marriage and one who was opposed to it.  He told all participants that they would be entered into a lottery to win $10.  He asked those in favour to read and respond to eight arguments counter to their position.  He gave them the second option of reading and responding to eight arguments that favoured their position, but the value of the lottery prize would be reduced to $7.  Those opposed to same-sex marriage were offered the same deal.  


Nearly two-thirds of both groups gave up the chance of winning a little extra money to avoid exposure to the opposite point of view.  In other words, this experiment affirms the idea that “people look for, remember, and in this case are willing to forgo money for information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs.”  


He offers a second example of President Trump’s dismissal of a lengthy National Climate Assessment in which 13 federal agencies warned of the dangers of global warming.  According to the Pew Research Centre, only 15% of conservative Republicans trust scientists to give full, accurate information about the causes of climate change compared to 70% of liberal Democrats. Professor Frimer’s experiment suggests that cognitive biases can play a large role in people’s willingness to deny facts and opinions contrary to their beliefs.  


How does this translate into the world of marketing? Well, I guess you could say that emotions often trump facts! In order to reach our customers (especially those customers who are loyal to other brands or who hold contradicting opinions), we must strive to strike an emotional chord by moving beyond communicating straight facts into the realms of their hearts and minds. 

BlogAndrew DeLeeuwComment