Distinction bias: a psychological phenomenon of decision-making

We all see ourselves as rational people, those who like to think coldly when making a certain decision.

However, to what extent are we really able to objectively assess the benefits of taking one route or another?

Distinction bias is a very common phenomenon which allows us to understand how people behave in our decision making, as well as to justify it according to the context in which we made it. We dig deeper below.

    What is the distinction bias?

    The distinction bias is the tendency to overestimate the effect of small quantitative differences when comparing different optionsWhether they materialize in products, services or just personal decisions. This tendency appears or not depending on whether the comparison of these options is done in common or, conversely, there is no decision and one lives or has something that cannot be changed.

    The term was first described in 2004 through research by Christopher L. Hsee and Jiao Zhang. These researchers observed that people, when we have to choose between a certain product from a wide range of possibilities, we tend to search and find a difference between themAs small and unimportant as they are, they are first hand. So based on those little details, our preferences lean towards one or another product, service, or decision.

    In this process, we overestimate the degree of happiness that will be involved in the decision we make. We fear that choosing less than adequate or less better will generate a high degree of discomfort or discomfort for us, and we also fear that we will regret it in the long run.

    However, if we are not given a choice of several options, as usually happens in life itself, it looks like we were ready to settle down. This means that when we cannot compare one event with others or have the capacity to make decisions, the possible differences between other options that we have not been able to take advantage of do not seem important to us, because we feel happy with what we already have.

      Comparison mode and experiment mode

      To facilitate the understanding of the bottom of the distinction, it is necessary to explain the two cognitive phenomena that this implies: the way of comparison and the way of experience.

      People go into compare mode when, having several options, we started looking for all kinds of differences between them. to make sure we made the right decision.

      Instead, we are in experience mode when there is no other optionWe have been touched by a certain thing that we cannot change and we have to be content with that, but on purpose.

      To illustrate both the prejudices and these two ways, we will see the following case of a man and an apple-based gift:

      We have in front of us a man who is sitting in front of a table, and we ask him the following question: do you want to eat an apple ?. The man, seeing that he is offered a free fruit, and without expecting it, answers in the affirmative. Then we give him the fruit, which is already a few days old but still good, and the man begins to eat it very happily.

      Now imagine – this same situation, only this instead of offering him an apple, we offer him two, and we tell him that he can only choose one. That’s when we presented him with two pieces of fruit: the same island from the previous crate, still good but with a few days old, and another apple that has a much fresher and more desirable pint. The man, after evaluating the two fruits, opts for the freshest apple.

      In this second situation, if we asked the man if he thought he would have been happier to choose the apple that didn’t look fresh, he would probably tell us no, that it wouldn’t have much. makes sense to have picked the oldest apple and you can choose the best one.

      In the situation where there was only one apple the person would have entered experiential mode, Since you don’t have to choose between several options. He is simply presented with the apple and invited to eat it. You don’t have to compare it to others for better or for worse.

      Instead, in the second situation, the man entered compare mode. Although both apples are edible, with the same nutritional value, the same breed of vegetables and a long and so on, the mere fact that one was younger than the other caused the person to perceive it as the better of the two options. Choosing the best of the islands presented to him makes him feel happier than he thinks if he had opted for the one which, for him, should have been the worst.

      Real life examples

      Marketing works on the basis of a distinction bias. If people did not choose to buy what we consider to be the best, most would choose to buy the cheapest, regardless of the supposedly trivial aspects such as the color of the product packaging, the prestige of the product. the brand behind it, all the extras it supposedly includes. .

      We have a clear example of this in the electronics world. Let’s say we want to buy a TV and we are in a store specializing in this type of device. In theory, all TVs placed side by side in the store have the same purpose: to watch TV channels. However, the prices of these products vary widely and the extras of each model are very different from each other.

      It’s time to choose the new TV and we haven’t decided which one to choose. Logic would tell us to take the cheapest, because after all, it was used for the same thing, regardless of its extras or price. however, we go for the most expensive, the ones that seem to be the best on the market and that in our mind they are very different from those that are worth little less.

      Another example, much more banal, that we have with the world of food. In supermarkets there are sections where you will find both white label cookies and those with a prestigious name on the back. It is well known a certain brand of cocoa cream inside cookies that seem to be the favorites of many people. However, these same cookies exist in their low cost, half-price format with a very similar taste.

      Although the two cookies are practically the same, they taste the same, have the same nutritional values ​​(little, since cookies are not a healthy food) and going for the cheaper product would be the most logical option, the most expensive brand, at twice the price, it is the most consumed. The reason this is done is that in addition to buying expensive products is seen as synonymous with power, all the marketing and presentation of these cookies helps the brand more expensive.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Hsee, CK (1998). Less is better: when low value options are valued than high value options. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. 11 (2): 107-121. doi: 10.1002 / (SICI) 1099-0771 (199806) 11: 2 <107 :: AID-BDM292> 3.0.CO; 2-Y
      • Hsee, CK; Leclerc, F. (1998). Will the products be more attractive when presented separately or together ?. The Journal of Consumer Research. 25 (2): 175-186. doi: 10.1086 / 209534
      • Hsee, CK; Zhang, J. (2004). Distinction bias: wrong prediction and wrong choice by joint evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 86 (5): 680-695. CiteSeerX

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