Photo: YouTube/ RALPHLAURINO
James Surowiecki in The New Yorker explains the psychology behind Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s large soda ban.While many say that consumers should decide what size they want, “default bias” causes people to choose the option seen as default:
In one well-known study, researchers put a bowl of M&M’s on the concierge desk of an apartment building, with a scoop attached and a sign below that said “Eat Your Fill.” On alternating days, the experimenters changed the size of the scoop—from a tablespoon to a quarter-cup scoop, which was four times as big. If people really ate just “what they want,” the amount they ate should have remained roughly the same. But scoop size turned out to matter a lot: people consumed much more when the scoop was big. This suggests that most of us don’t have a fixed idea of how much we want; instead, we look to outside cues—like the size of a package or cup—to instruct us.
And then there’s the tendency of people to go for the middle option:
In a classic experiment by Itamar Simonson and Amos Tversky, people asked to choose between a cheap camera and a pricier one with more features were divided more or less equally between the two options. But when a third option—a fancy, very expensive camera—was added to the mix most people went for the mid-range camera. The very expensive camera made the middle one seem less extravagant.
In soda terms, the existence of a 40 ounce makes people think a 20 ounce is reasonable. Eliminating that option makes people more likely to view the 20 as extravagant and choose the 12 ounce instead.
More at The New Yorker.
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