Thrive in our connected world

How marketers use 20 cognitive biases that screw up your decisions

It’s rare that psychology goes viral, but here’s a latest infographic from Business Insider that has done just that:  ‘20 cognitive biases that screw up your decisions‘ (thanks to Dr Carolyn Mair of the London College of Fashion for catching it).

The infographic provides a simple introductory summary to our apparent irrationality in love, life and shopping. So here’s the infographic, along with 20 marketing applications.

  1. Anchoring Bias – People are overreliant on the first piece of information they hear.
  2. Availability Heuristic – When people overestimate the importance of information that is available to them
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness by presenting a product as a solution to particular problem (to which we then overestimate the importance)
  3. Bandwagon Effect – The probability of one person adopting a belief increases based on the number of people who hold that belief.
    • How it’s used –  Enhancing marketing effectiveness by presenting a product as the #1 (best rated, best selling, fastest growing etc)
  4. Blind-spot Bias – Failing to recognize your cognitive biases is a bias in itself.
  5. Choice Supportive Bias – When you choose something, you tend to feel positive about it, even if the choice has flaws
  6. Clustering Illusion – This is the tendency to see patterns in random events (or clouds).
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness by presenting a product as a perfect fit to a person’s set of needs (that may well be unrelated)
  7. Confirmation Bias – We tend to listen only to the information that confirms our preconceptions
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness by fitting a product in with your preconceptions and expectations, such as using ‘positive tests‘ to conform what you expect
  8. Conservatism Bias – Where people believe prior evidence more than new evidence or information that has emerged
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness by presenting a product as fitting with your traditional and long-held beliefs
  9. Information Bias – The tendency to seek information when it does not affect action.
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness through the oversupply of information, more information may not be better information, but we can perceive it that way
  10. Ostrich Effect – The decision to ignore dangerous or negative information by “burying” one’s head in the sand, like an ostrich (is supposed to, but doesn’t do)
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness by downplaying or not communicating potential risks or downsides
  11. Outcome Bias – Judging a decision based on the outcome — rather than how exactly the decision was made in the moment
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness by focusing on the benefit of the product, rather than the product itself
  12. Overconfidence Effect – Some of us are too confident about our abilities, and this causes us to take greater risks in our daily lives
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness by presenting a product as helping us attain unlikely, but desired goals performance or ambitions
  13. Placebo Effect – When simply believing that something will have a certain impact on you causes it to have that effect
  14. Pro-innovation Bias – When a proponent of an innovation tends to overvalue its usefulness and undervalue its limitations
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness by presenting a product to us as new, innovative, ‘next generation’ or trendsetting
  15. Recency Effect – The tendency to weigh the latest information more heavily than older data
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness by controlling the last message we see – often at the point of sale, such as on-pack labelling or online product descriptions.
  16. Salience – Our tendency to focus on the most easily recognizable features of a person or concept
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness using distinctive ‘stand-out’ associations, sensory assets and messages
  17. Selective perception – Allowing our expectations to influence how we perceive the world.
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness by targeting existing satisfied customers; you are more likely to pay attention and make a repeat purchase
  18. Stereotyping – Expecting a group or person to have certain qualities without having real information about the individual
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness by pandering to cultural stereotypes we use (consciously or unconsciously)
  19. Survivorship bias – An error that comes from focusing only on surviving examples, causing us to misjudge a situation.
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness by focusing on positive outcomes (independently of whether the product produced them)
  20. Zero-risk bias – Sociologists have found that we love certainty — even if it’s counter productive
    • How it’s used – Enhancing marketing effectiveness by presenting a product or service to us as risk-free

20 Cognitive Biases

Written by
Dr Paul Marsden
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