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Bias: Why everyone always chooses the best

How do make use of bias?

Bias: Why everyone always chooses the best

We generally all go about making choices in the same way. We collect information, analyse it, and then try to distil from this the most appropriate choice. But our psyche works very differently, and cognitive ‘thinking errors’ (called Bias) lurk.

I say ‘cognitive distortions’, but they are not necessarily errors. These are mechanisms that hide the fact that we are not as analytical as we think we are, and actually make a lot more intuitive decisions than we realise. One of these mechanisms is the principle that we will always rationalise a choice taken, and confirm it by focusing on the positive aspects (choice supportive bias). So we always think that we make the best choice. As a marketer, you can take this into account, and make it work to your advantage.

What is actually happening?

We all know the feeling. You’ve just bought a new laptop. It was a long process of comparison and deliberation. Once home, you find an advertising brochure on the mat which has another laptop adorned on the front page which is significantly marked down. But immediately you tell yourself that your new purchase really was the best choice, after all, you got an extra year of warranty as well.

You probably throw the leaflet rapidly in the waste bin. So we unconsciously excuse all our choices.

There are several ways in which this bias comes into force:

  • During the selection process we are selective in our information gathering. We pay special attention to positive information about the choice option that ‘secretly’ already has our preference.
  • When the choice is made, we ignore new negative information. (this is also called cognitive dissonance)
  • Our memory of the selection process changes. We remember especially the aspects that favour the final option chosen. Previously acquired negative information we actually forget. The further the moment of choice is in the past, the less negative aspects we remember.

In this way we rationalize choices that are actually taken on a subconscious level. We avoid feelings of disappointment and inner conflicts, and find we have developed a good system for future choices.

How can we use this knowledge in marketing?

“Een A/B test toonde de effectiviteit van een Trustpilot Widget aan.”

The application and impact of this cognitive bias can only be done in a subtle way. The phenomenon occurs whatever you do, but the difference you can make in your marketing strategy is to create a favorable environment for your business, so that the bias may tip in your favor.

  • As mentioned, a customer will be looking for positive information to confirm his choice. You can provide him the information yourself. Think of showing reviews from satisfied customers, preferably all the way to the screen with the final order-button.
  • The effect on the brain is to make you feel better about yourself, according to the choice made. This feeling can be strengthened on your website or in your advertising by example, glorify the customers a little with statements such as, “Great that you found our product!” or “Congratulations on your purchase!” which are complimentary terms which confirm to the customer that they are in the right place.
  •  Anyway, make sure that the customer has an experience as enjoyable as possible on your website. In particular, make also sure it is user-friendly. How more enjoyable the shopping experience, the more he will associate this positive feeling also with your products. In addition, this positive feeling, will be strengthened in the memory over time, so that the customer also returns faster for a follow-up purchase.

These are all very subtle techniques to use the choice confirmatory bias. As with most neuromarketing principles, it’s all about redirecting feelings. Man thinks he is a rational being, but it’s being continuously directed by unconscious emotions.


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