The Decoy Effect is a simple but powerful trick that marketers use to influence you to buy something that is bigger or more expensive than you need or want. I fall for this every time I go to the movies and think I'm going to buy the medium popcorn but end up getting the large because it costs just a few cents more. The medium popcorn is the decoy that nudges you to buy the large. But social psychologists have also studied the Decoy Effect outside retail environments. From the BBC News:
The decoy effect might also influence our voting in elections, and recruitment decisions. In these kinds of situations, the “decoy” may appear by accident rather than having been deliberately placed in the selection, but if you do come across two candidates who are similar, but one is slightly superior to the other, it will heighten your regard for them compared to the other competitors...
On a more positive note, scientists in the UK have also started to consider whether the decoy effect might be used to encourage people to make healthier life choices. Christian Von Wagner, a reader in behavioural science and health at University College London, for instance, recently explored people’s intentions to undergo a vital – but unpleasant – screening for colorectal cancer. He found that given the choice between arranging an appointment for the screening or not having the procedure at all, many people chose not to go. But if he also presented them with a third option – an appointment at a less convenient hospital with a longer waiting time, ie, the decoy – the uptake was greater.
For more on the Decoy Effect and other fascinating cognitive biases, I highly recommend behavioral economist Dan Ariely's fantastic book Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.
When Yale research psyhcologist Irving Janis coined the term "groupthink" in 1972, he identified eight symptoms of the pathology: the "illusion of invulnerability"; a "belief in the inherent morality of the group"; "collective rationalization"; "out-group stereotypes"; "self-censorship"; the "illusion of unanimity"; "direct pressure on dissenters" and "self-appointed mindguards."
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is Robert Cialdini’s absolute classic book outlining six principles that you can use to convince people to do things and/or defend yourself against coercion. I hadn’t seen this 2012 animated explainer video above narrated by Cialdini and Steve Martin, not the comedian but rather co-author of Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven […]
Trying to see the world through someone else’s eyes is a great way to build empathy and understanding between people. Turns out, this approach — when taken literally — also works with robots. Researchers from the University of Bourgogne, University of Trento, and their colleagues used a head-mounted display to put people “inside” a robot […]
The bummers of adulthood are too many to count, but one of our least favorites is the inability to sit down and enjoy a nice bowl of cereal. When you’ve got a long commute ahead, let’s face it: That extra time it takes to pour the milk and chow down is too precious to spare. […]
Who are these people that have time for a job, social life, and actual healthy meals? With a nutrition segment on seemingly every talk show and entire networks devoted to food, it can sometimes seem like we’ve never left our mother’s house and her constant admonitions to “eat your vegetables!” And okay, she was right. […]
Every Christmas list has names you dread buying for. But hold up: Before you wave the white flag and get them yet another gift card, scroll down a few. We’ve got 15 items that run the gamut from stylish old-school lighters to cutting-edge audio tech, enough variety to please any Scrooge. And the best part? […]