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The relationship between cognitive bias and advertisements

How should men and women be presented in advertising? Which clichés can be included and where is the line between humour and sexism? This discussion has just regained attention. Ads that show stereotypical images of men and women have just been banned in England.

If you look at the comment section, opinions vary as to whether it is really necessary to ban the ad. It’s a fact that more women take care of children and men go to work. So where is the problem that advertisements represent men and women like that?

The problem is that cognitive bias is reinforced by such ads. Cognitive bias is a systematically distorted perception that unconsciously influences our values, beliefs, perceptions and decisions. Nobody is free of cognitive bias and through marketing that uses old-fashioned role modelling we strengthen these prejudices. If we continue to show women as housewives and mothers and men as the money-making adventurers, we will not discard clichés and prejudices—nor the artificial intelligence that we train.

Government regulation forces us to become conscious that cognitive bias is a problem, especially in the digital age. And that companies need to address cognitive bias by rethinking their marketing strategies. After all, no company wants to spend large sums on a commercial that never airs.