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A cocktail of biases

Jumping to conclusions — the easiest kind of exercise, especially on a Sunday morning

Koen Smets
5 min readSep 8, 2017


I learned three things this week: two things I didn’t know, and one thing I did know, but regularly seem to forget. All of this occurred in less than 10 minutes, last Sunday morning, at the crack of dawn. Here is what happened.

I was listening to the morning news show on Belgian radio, and just after 6am I heard that the people of Australia observe Father’s Day on the first Sunday in September. Well, why not, I thought — they celebrate Christmas in high Summer, and they walk upside down, so it’s hardly the most unusual thing about Oz from the point of view of a dude in Western Europe.

And certainly not particularly worthy of a news report. But there was something afoot with Australian Father’s Day. Every year for the last 15 years, the non-profit organization Dads4Kids produces a television commercial to mark the occasion, encouraging fathers to “love their children and put their families first”. A bit sentimental maybe, but going by this year’s edition, they are really quite charming. Nevertheless, the advert got pulled by the free-to-air TV industry body in Australia.

The reason? The commercial could be seen as making a political statement: it featured only families with mum, dad and children. No trace of same-sex two-dad families.

That is the kind of news item that does wake one up well and good early on a Sunday. Such censorship truly is political correctness gone mad.

Hot topic

But then I learned a second thing. There was more, much more to this, than met the eye. Same-sex marriage is a hot topic in Australia, dominating national politics to an extent way beyond its social significance. In the last election campaign, in a move reminiscent of David Cameron’s regarding the UK’s membership of the EU, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had promised to hold a referendum on the subject. However, a referendum requires legislation, and parliament voted against the government (which has a majority of just one seat). The government had a plan-B, though: a postal plebiscite, a bit like an official survey (run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics). This will now take place this month, after a legal…



Koen Smets

Accidental behavioural economist in search of wisdom. Uses insights from (behavioural) economics in organization development. On Twitter as @koenfucius