When Science and Marketing Meet: Brain Scan Reveals Choice Mechanism



I came across an article posted at Lab Spaces on a study regarding decision making that brought up a very interesting promotion aspect I was quite impressed with.


A recent research study by Akshay Rao, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, shows that decision making is simplified when a consumer considers a third, less attractive option.


Volunteers had their brains scanned while they made choices between several sets of equally appealing options as well as choice sets that included a third, somewhat less attractive option. Overall, the presence of the extra, “just okay” possibility systematically increased preference for the better options. The fMRI scans showed that when making a choice between only two, equally preferred options; subjects tended to display irritation because of the difficulty of the choice process. The presence of the third option made the choice process easier and relatively more pleasurable.


These findings should be something the retail industry in particular should take under consideration, especially during the current economic slowdown. As Rao explained “Retailers interested in helping ease the pain of consumer decision making may introduce decoys, loss leaders, or other products similar to the ones they really want to market. It will make the focal product look more attractive. Plus, a frustrated customer struggling to choose between two equally attractive options may decide not to buy anything — the introduction of a third option may be better for everyone.”


I am going to start to apply the three options technique to everyday situations; I see the possibilities of utilizing these findings as virtually endless, whether it is dinner decisions, what movie to watch, where to go on vacation, etc…  . When I need input from others, I will be sure to include the two that are most preferred by me along with a reasonable decoy. Using this approach should make the actual process of deciding more pleasant, resulting in a decision that was made with less irritation involved (be it consciously or subconsciously).


3 Responses to When Science and Marketing Meet: Brain Scan Reveals Choice Mechanism

  1. ggw_bach says:

    human psychology is a complex beast; so dependent on the perceived sources of information. ‘Influence: Science and Practice’ is a very good book to get further info on marketing etc. Highly recommended

  2. Degraw says:

    Nice blog and thanks for the info!

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