can you steer an outcome by adding choice?


The addition of a 3rd ‘unpopular’ or non choice to a decision between 2 choices, will bias the outcome towards one of the original 2 choices. The human brain, always seeks simple answers. The 3rd option provides a measure that can be used to compare against the othe choices, often simplifying the choice. (decoy choice effect)
Seth Godin’s example;
There are two wines for sale at dinner: $9 a bottle or $16 a bottle. Which one do you order?
Now, imagine that there are three, and the third is $34. Are you more likely to buy the $16 bottle now? Most people are.

Joel Huber, a Duke University marketing professor, showed how the decoy effect works with restaurants. Huber asked people whether they would prefer to eat at a five-star restaurant that was far away or at a three-star restaurant nearby. As with many choices in life, each restaurant had different advantages. If the better restaurant was also nearby, there would be no dilemma. But the question forced people to compare apples and oranges — trade off quality against convenience — which ensured no automatic answer.

The human brain, however, always seeks simple answers. Enter the third candidate. Huber told some people there was also a choice of a four-star restaurant that was farther away than the five-star option. People now gravitated toward the five-star choice, since it was better and closer than the third candidate. (The three-star restaurant was closer, but not as good as the new candidate.)

Another group was given a different third candidate, a two-star restaurant halfway between the first two. Many people now chose the three-star restaurant, because it beat the new option on convenience and quality. (The five-star restaurant outdid this third candidate on only one measure, quality.)

What the decoy effect basically shows is that when people cannot decide between two front-runners, they use the third candidate as a sort of measuring stick. If one front-runner looks much better than the third candidate, people gravitate toward that front-runner. Third candidates, in other words, can make a complicated decision feel simple.


1 Comment »

  1. Livette said

    Nice blog!

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