Mythbuster: Ignoring inconvenient data

Les Binet and Sarah Carter

Les Binet and Sarah Carter get a little bit angry about some of the nonsense they find around them… like the way that we ignore inconvenient data.

We have now written more than 30 of these Mythbuster columns. It's amusing to remember how, when embarking on the column, we were concerned that we wouldn't have a good enough supply of myths to bust. We needn't have worried. But we have often mused on quite why this should be so. Why, when so much time and money is spent on data collection and we have never had more data and innovative research available, do we find that people so often go with their invalid hunches and myths, rather than the contradictory data evidence?

This problem is not unique to the advertising industry, of course. It's such a universal phenomenon that psychologists have a name for it: confirmation bias. It has its roots in a cluster of psychological biases, all of which blind us to those 'inconvenient truths' that threaten our pet theories.