The ‘Decoy Effect’

It seems you really can lead a horse to water.

The outcome of someone’s decision can easily be influenced simply by the way in which the options are presented to them.

In one study, a group of students were give the following The Economist magazine (it’s a great read btw) subscription options:

Option A — Online only for £59

Option B — Print only for £125

Option C — Print & Online — £125

Astonishingly, nearly 85% of respondents chose the most expensive, ‘combined’ option.

When the inferior option I.e. the middle or ‘decoy’ option was removed and tested with a second group of students, interest in the ‘combined’ option (I.e. Print & Online) fell to just 32%.

What are the implications of this seemingly irrational choice? What can you learn from it?

Firstly, it seems that you really can lead a horse to water after all. Secondly, if you’re trying to get someone to pick a certain product or service make sure that you include a range of options — some of which may be less attractive — in order to encourage interest in the option you are trying to steer them towards.

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