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My endeavor is to delve into certain issues to give you some perspective, help you understand the world better, attempt to understand why we do what we do, and maybe in all of this, make the world teeny-weeny better! 

Disclaimer: It may be a tad bit opinionated!

So, let's get to it...

The (il)logical Feeling Brain and the Tanishq Ad

Not so long ago, Bud Light came out with its notorious #upforwhatever commercial. A fairly innocuous ad where one evening a man experiences the Bud Light beer and is asked by his partner, “if he is up for anything now.” Subsequently, you see that a random sequence of weird events happen to him (shown in the form of short ads) including an accidental meeting with Don Cheadle (who played the Iron Patriot in the Iron Man & Avengers series) and finally ending up playing table tennis with a funny-looking Arnold Schwarzeneggar at an OneRepublic concert. No violence, no obscenity, no vulgarity nothing. Overall it was a nice, fun, and typical Bud ad. There was nothing specifically offensive in the ad itself however the overall premise of the ad and the printed message on the Bud Light bottle was taken a whole lot of differently by the public. The message on the bottle read ‘the perfect beer for removing “No” from your vocabulary for the night. The perfect beer for whatever happens.’ The ad received severe backlash from the public who perceived that ‘the campaign encouraged and promoted rape by printing those messages on the beer bottles.’ Considering the role that alcohol played in rape cases, a fact that Bud Light had overlooked, it was caught unawares by the criticism it received. Bud Light ultimately had to apologize and take the ad off-air. Something similar we had seen happening a couple of days back when Tanishq took their ad off media and had to apologize.

Anyways despite being terribly disappointed at the severe backlash that the Tanishq ad has received, even though it comes from an institution that has upheld the values of ‘trust, integrity and harmony’ for generations, and leaving aside the sheer crappiness of the ‘communal’ angle brought in by my fellow viewers, what it does remind me is of one of our deep-rooted and inherently flawed psychological tendency while making judgments i.e. our tendency to - jump to conclusions on the bases of our biases.

But before we dive right into this aspect, a little detour I’d like to take you and try to elaborate. In one of my previous articles titled A Journey to Fitness – How it all begins I briefly mentioned about the imaginative two brains in your mind which you can safely call Feeling Brain and Thinking Brain.[1] An eminent psychologist Daniel Gilbert had proposed a theory on believing and un-believing. He proposed that ‘understanding a statement must begin with an attempt to believe it: you must know what that idea would mean if it were true, only then can you decide whether or not to un-believe it.’ This initial attempt to believe whatever our mind throws at us is an automatic operation by our Feeling Brain – which involves the construction of a narrative to interpret something, no matter how nonsensical that might be. The automatic attempt to believe is a Feeling Brain operation however to un-believe is a Thinking Brain operation and to un-believe, as you can look within, requires some amount of work. The Thinking Brain is often lazy to do so and conveniently tries to confirm whatever the Feeling Brain interprets. Even when the Thinking Brain is occupied, we tend to believe anything that the Feeling Brain crops up. During these times, when the Thinking Brain is tired, depleted, and frustrated from sitting or working from home and with the negativity surrounding our current milieu, chances are that whatever good thrown at us is bound for misinterpretation. Even if a message does bring you some good, chances are that the Feeling Brain will do a deliberate search of evidence to confirm it. This is also coined as confirmatory bias. This confirmatory bias that exists causes our extreme reactions even blinding out the context and even sidelining our ability to see perspectives, making us jump to conclusions. The Feeling Brain is completely insensitive to the quality and quantity that gives rise to an impression. The Thinking Brain being pretty much subservient to the Feeling Brain doesn’t object but endorses the impression as a default response unless a deliberate conscious effort is made by us to do otherwise. Since advertisements are not long enough like movie flicks the Thinking brain doesn’t get enough time to process the information and submits itself to whatever shitty interpretation our Feeling Brain has formulated. We don’t even spare movies these days, despite having a two and half hour context to make an impression, so what do you think will be the psychological impression of a thirty-second advertisement then? Usually, it will be highly susceptible to a ‘jumped conclusion’ drawn from our ‘confirmatory biases’. [2]

If I were to ask you a question “Will Charlie be a good leader? He is strong and intelligent.” Chances are most of us will think of the answer yes. The Feeling Brain quickly gets into action seeing the adjective - strong: which is good, and then the adjective intelligent: which takes the good to the very good level, quickly jumping to a conclusion that ‘Yes, Charlie will make a good leader.’ But what if the next two adjectives that were to follow were rude and corrupt? You did not begin by asking yourself the following key question ‘What is it that I need to know in order to form an opinion on the leadership abilities of Charlie?’ Sadly, the beautiful ad fell prey to our this flawed tendency to jump to a conclusion, without deliberating on the overall context that the ad had, confirmed or validated by the crappy biases that we hold. The probability was high, that even before the ad finished we pushed the ‘dislike’ button succumbing to our biases. It was the best (or rather the shittiest) narrative that your Feeling Brain could come up with and delivered it to you with great cognitive ease. Their Feeling Brain had run amok seeing the ad.

The Tanishq ad is certainly not the first instance to bring out our flawed minds. It not only shows us how psychologically crippled we are but also reflects our inherent gullibility. The psychological bias that exists in no way can or should act as a veneer to hide behind, instead, the acknowledgment of it can make us less awful human beings. Understanding of it can help us in un-believing the crappy (communal) interpretations of the Feeling Brain. Deliberate slow thinking can activate the Thinking Brain to analyze the overall context, the perspective of the situation, and fend off our extreme reactions. On an emotional level deep down I did feel saddened by the act of Tanishq taking off the ad and apologizing, however it may have been a good business decision in doing so. Whether this act of theirs has adversely affected their brand image or whether this has caused disbelief in their loyal consumers who looked up to the brand on values of strength, trust, and integrity, that only time will tell.

For the ad agency and Tanishq management who were forced and got stressed to take the ad off-air, I can only narrate a scene from one of my favorite movies, The Dark Knight,

Alfred: A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So, we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anybody who traded with him. One day, I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.

Batman/Bruce Wayne: So why steal them?

Alfred: Well, because he thought it was a good sport. Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Perhaps there will always be people who will want to just watch the world burn. (or perhaps this is my Feeling Brain running amok!)



Click here to see the Bud Light ad, and here to see the Bud Light beer bottle pic

Click here to see the Tanishq ad – Okay no need to click here, as Tanishq has already taken off the ad.


[1] A reference drawn from Everything is Fucked by Mark Manson

[2] A reference is drawn from Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman under the discussion of the subject of ‘A bias to believe and confirm’.

3. Subtle similarities can be drawn from Mark Manson’s Thinking-Feeling Brain analogy with Daniel Kahneman’s System 1- System 2 analogy.




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