Does My Thinking Smell Funny?

Tony Ollivier
6 min readFeb 2, 2021

Confirmation bias — looking for evidence that supports a belief and throwing away anything that disagrees with it.

I work for a company with a great product in a competitive market. I help write marketing material that shows off our solution in a positive light.

Other marketers use advertising to create a positive bias towards their brand. Nike wants to motivate you to “Just do it” with their swoosh. Tide wants your clothes to be whiter and brighter.

Bias is fine for shoes or detergent; do you run faster with their shoes or do your clothes look better? Perhaps, but in most cases, the outcome you receive is subjective.

However, in science, a bias is a problem and an error in thinking and unfortunately, confirmation bias has taken a deadly turn. In the current COVID-19 pandemic, cognitive biases have led to unnecessary deaths of too many people. And while we can point fingers, the problem is deeper than ‘to mask’ or not ‘to mask’.

Since the dawn of time…

Photo by Matt Barrett on Unsplash

Today’s social-media-loving-humans grew from tribes of hunter gatherers formed for protection, food and sex. Tribes would be multi-generational until grandpa (at the ripe age of 32) was a little slower than the rest and became tiger food.

To survive, tribes needed common values and common beliefs. Disagreements of which animals to hunt and where the tribe should sleep could end in death. In corporate speak, the tribe’s values and beliefs needed to be aligned in order to survive.

Thousands of years later, nomadic tribes morphed into communities and beliefs morphed into religions. Today churches hunt for followers instead of food; a new follower ensures the beliefs and cultures endure.

In the Flintstones era, with enough bluster, charisma and an unverifiable story, you could start your own religion and gather followers. Today many social media influencers follow the same recipe; no evidence of truth (or talent) required.