Distinction bias: a psychological phenomenon of decision making.
This psychological bias predisposes us to constantly compare, looking for differences.
We all think of ourselves as rational people who like to think coldly when making a decision.
However, to what extent are we really able to objectively evaluate the benefits of choosing one way or the other?
Distinction bias is a very common phenomenon that helps us to understand how that allows us to understand how people behave in our decision making, as well as to justify it depending on the context in which we have made it. Let's take a closer look.
What is distinction bias?
Distinction bias is the tendency to overestimate the effect of small quantitative differences when comparing different options, be they in the form of products, services or simply personal decisions.whether these are materialized in products, services or, simply, personal decisions. This tendency appears or not depending on whether the comparison of these options is carried out jointly or, on the contrary, there is no decision at all and one is living or having something that cannot be modified.
The term was first described in 2004 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 look for and find any differences between them, no matter how small and unimportant they may be.even if they are small and unimportant at first glance. Thus, depending on these small details, our preferences lean towards one or another product, service or decision.
During this process we overestimate the degree of happiness that the decision we are making will bring us. We fear that, by opting for the least suitable or the least best, it will generate a high degree of discomfort or discomfort, and we also fear that we will regret it in the long run.
However, if we do not have the possibility of choosing between several options, as is often the case in life itself, it seems as if we willingly settle for it. This means that, when we can't compare one event with others and we don't have the ability to decide, the possible differences between other options that we haven't been able to enjoy don't seem to matter to us, and we feel satisfied with what we already have.
- You may be interested in "Are we rational or emotional beings?"
Comparison mode and experience mode
To facilitate the understanding of the distinction bias, it is necessary to explain the two cognitive phenomena involved: the comparison mode and the experience mode.
People enter comparison mode when, having several options available to them, we start looking for all kinds of differences between them to ensure that we make the right decision. to make sure that we make the right choice..
On the other hand, we are in experience mode when there is no other optionWe are in experience mode when we have been given a certain thing that we cannot change and we have to settle for it, but willingly.
To exemplify both the bias and these two modes we will see the following case of a man and a gift of apples:
We have in front of us a man who is sitting in front of a table, and we ask him the following question: would you like to eat an apple. The man, seeing that he is offered a free, and without expecting it, a fruit, answers in the affirmative. So we give him the fruit, which is a few days old but still good, and he starts eating it happily.
Now let's imagine this same situation, only that instead of offering him one apple, we offer him two, and we tell him that he can only choose instead of offering him one apple we offer him two, and we tell him that he will only be able to choose one of them. It is then when we present him with both pieces of fruit: the same apple as in the previous case, still good but a few days old, and another apple which looks much fresher and more appetizing. The man, after evaluating both pieces of fruit, chooses the fresher apple.
In this second situation, if we asked the man if he thought he would have been happier choosing the apple that did not look fresh, he would probably say no, that it would not make much sense to have taken the older apple when he could have chosen the better one.
In the situation where there was only one apple the person would have entered the experiential modeThe apple is presented to you and you are invited to eat it. He is simply presented with the apple and invited to eat it. He does not have to compare it with others that are better or worse.
In the second situation, on the other hand, the man has entered the comparison mode. has entered the comparison mode. Even though both apples were edible, with the same nutritional value, the same breed of vegetable and so on, the simple fact that one was younger than the other made the person perceive it as the better of the two choices. By choosing the best of the apples that could have been presented to him, he feels happier than he thinks he would have been if he had chosen the one that, for him, must have been the worst.
Marketing works on the basis of distinction bias.. If people did not choose to buy what we consider to be the best, most of us would choose to buy the cheapest, regardless of such supposedly banal aspects as the color of the product packaging, the prestige of the brand behind it, all the extras that it supposedly includes....
A clear example of this can be found in the world of electronics. Let's say we want to buy a television and we find ourselves in a store specializing in this type of appliance. In theory, all the televisions that have been placed next to each other in the store serve the same purpose: to watch television channels. However, the prices of these products vary greatly, and the extras of each model are very different from each other.
This is when it's time to choose a new TV and we can't decide which one to choose. Logic would tell us to take the cheapest one, since, after all, it will be used for the same purpose, regardless of its extras or price. However, we opt for the most expensive ones, those that seem to be the best on the market and which, in our mind, are enormously and which, in our minds, differ enormously from those that are worth only a little less.
Another example, this one much more mundane, is the world of food. In supermarkets there are sections where you can find both private label cookies and those with a prestigious name behind them. It is well known a certain brand of cocoa cookies with a cream interior that seem to be the favorite of many people. However, these same cookies exist in their low cost format, at half the price, with a very similar taste.
Despite the fact that both cookies are practically the same, taste the same, have the same nutritional values (few, since cookies are not healthy food) and opting for the cheaper product would be the most logical choice, the more expensive brand, at twice the price, is the most consumed. The reason why this is done is that, in addition to the fact that buying expensive products is seen as synonymous with power, all the marketing behind and the presentation of these cookies helps the more expensive brand.
- Hsee, C.K. (1998). Less is better: When low-value options are valued more highly than high-value options. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. 11 (2): 107-121. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-0771(199806)11:23.0.CO;2-Y.
- Hsee, C.K.; Leclerc, F. (1998). Will products look more attractive when presented separately or together?. The Journal of Consumer Research. 25 (2): 175-186. doi:10.1086/209534.
- Hsee, C.K.; Zhang, J. (2004). Distinction bias: Misprediction and mischoice due to joint evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 86 (5): 680–695. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.484.9171
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)