Unless you never heard about the financial crisis, you experienced first hand that people are not rational. Our rationality is directly linked to our gut. Tons of research has been developed to better understand our decision making process. What we learned over time is that we should focus less on the individual and more on the fact that we are social beings. Introducing the Argumentative Theory of Reasoning:

“We do all these irrational things, and despite mounting results, people are not really changing their basic assumption. They are not challenging the basic idea that reasoning is for individual purposes. The premise is that reasoning should help us make better decisions, get at better beliefs. And if you start from this premise, then it follows that reasoning should help us deal with logical problems and it should help us understand statistics. But reasoning doesn’t do all these things, or it does all these things very, very poorly.”


“Psychologists have shown that people have a very, very strong, robust confirmation bias. What this means is that when they have an idea, and they start to reason about that idea, they are going to mostly find arguments for their own idea. They’re going to come up with reasons why they’re right, they’re going to come up with justifications for their decisions. They’re not going to challenge themselves.

And the problem with the confirmation bias is that it leads people to make very bad decisions and to arrive at crazy beliefs. And it’s weird, when you think of it, that humans should be endowed with a confirmation bias. If the goal of reasoning were to help us arrive at better beliefs and make better decisions, then there should be no bias. The confirmation bias should really not exist at all. We have a very strong conflict here between the observations of empirical psychologists on the one hand and our assumption about reasoning on the other.

But if you take the point of view of the argumentative theory, having a confirmation bias makes complete sense. When you’re trying to convince someone, you don’t want to find arguments for the other side, you want to find arguments for your side. And that’s what the confirmation bias helps you do.

The idea here is that the confirmation bias is not a flaw of reasoning, it’s actually a feature. It is something that is built into reasoning; not because reasoning is flawed or because people are stupid, but because actually people are very good at reasoning — but they’re very good at reasoning for arguing. Not only does the argumentative theory explain the bias, it can also give us ideas about how to escape the bad consequences of the confirmation bias.”

Important ramifications for the marketing world:

– We’re trying to influence people with features and competitive advantages but people don’t look for the best list of features.

– Communicating competitive advantage is not about understanding belief systems, culture, lifestyles, demographics, psychographics, and the all the other stuff that’s floating around in the advertising world. We just have to give the gut some credibility to make its argument.

– More importantly for all brands: We need to create an environment that fosters better ideas. We need to collaborate with people that perceive the world differently, we need to create environments where contrary opinions are cherished, where curiousness and openness are basic requirements, and where process is an enzyme to to encourage more experimentation and sharing.