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Don't Take the Wrong Decision Shortcuts
The benefit of an almost inexhaustible supply of facts, figures and data can often be a double-edged sword in our increasingly complex, information-overloaded world. While having all the pertinent facts is critical to good decision-making, at the same time conflicting information can leave us stuck and uncertain of how to proceed. However, behavioral scientists have found that, remarkably, as decision complexity increases, we actually rely on less information to form our decision, not more. In fact, rather than effectively using all the available information, we often rely on a single rule of thumb as a reliable shortcut to making a good decision. Understanding these "decision shortcuts" can teach us to make our own decisions more effectively and also make us more persuasive ourselves. Many of these shortcuts fall into patterns that social scientists have seen over and over; let's look at two in particular. Social proof suggests that one very efficient route to a good decision is to look at how many others are making the same decision: if everyone else is buying it then perhaps I should too. On the other hand, uniqueness suggests that we should be persuaded by the unique and rare features offered in a proposal: if this is the only car with heated seats, I should totally buy it! Work by social scientist and marketing professor Vladas Griskevicius suggests that often the emotions we experience immediately before we are presented with a message or a proposal can determine which decision shortcuts influence us most. In the study researchers showed subjects a series of short film clips that were designed to induce either a feeling of fear ("The Shining") or a feeling of romanticism ("Before Sunrise"). A control group read a short story that evoked neither feelings of fear or romance. Immediately afterwards participants were shown a series of advertisements that employed either social proof messaging or uniqueness messaging. One...
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