Freedom to be Irrational?

Relative Freedom
(In Part 1 of this series, we explored Sway, by Ori and Rom Brafman, a powerful book that discusses several psychological forces that drive irrational behavior. Here, in Part 2, we continue by looking at Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.)

How free are you?

Some people pretend that they are completely free to make their own decisions.
But it’s not true.
Everyone is influenced in an endless number of ways.

Don’t give up, though!
We can focus on maximizing our freedom.

Learn about the common forces that influence you, and you have a chance to neutralize those influences, or use them to your advantage!

One of the ways that we make decisions is through comparison.

Most people don’t know if they want something, unless they compare it to other things.

Let’s say that there are two different items that I’m planning to buy.
One has a retail price of $20, and one has a retail price $200.
A seven dollar discount off the $20 item seems great, and I’ll go out of my way to get to the store that offers that discount.

But a seven dollar discount off a $200 item?
I’m not likely to go out of my way to get that.
It seems like no big deal.

But it’s still the same $7 that I’m saving!

You can be sure that marketers are aware of this, and use it to make an item seem more desirable.

Have you ever bought something, just because of the money you’d save?

One way to resist the influence of a good buy, is to change your point of view.
Instead of looking at the buy in terms of what you’re saving, look at the total spend in the bigger context of your available money, priorities, etc.

Zoom out, to take a wider point of view, the pull of some little advantage gets much weaker.

There’s another problem with our love of comparison.
On our own, we tend to ignore choices that are difficult to compare to what we know.

Marketers, on the other hand, use uniqueness to sell.
They’ll make their choice sound really good, and then emphasize the uniqueness of the product so much, that we can’t compare it to anything else.

Put uniqueness in perspective, by asking yourself if that unique benefit is really so unique, and if it’s valuable to you.

Studies consistently show that owners value their things more than buyers are willing to pay.

We fall in love with the things we possess, and even the ideas that we’ve accepted.

How does this effect how we decide and buy?

The feeling of losing something we own, is more important to us than the money we get for selling it.

Similarly, if we’ve already mentally taken possession of some potential object, the thought of losing that ownership far outweighs what it costs to buy it.

Marketers make use of this bias in two ways, so be prepared:

  • Companies give us a free or ridiculously cheap trial ownership in a product or service. They want us to feel ownership, and they know that we’ll hate to give it up when the trial is over.
  • Companies give us guarantees. Just try it, and return it if you don’t like it. The companies know that once we take possession of something, we’re not likely to give up the ownership.

Protect yourself.
Ignore trials of things that you don’t really want.
And don’t let a guarantee sucker you into trying something out that doesn’t really interest you.

You’re always told that you have nothing to lose by trying out some product.
But you do.
Once you try something, and take possession of it, it’s much harder to return it, even if you don’t really like it that much.

I’ll Decide Tomorrow
Most of us feel compelled to put off our decisions, and keep our options open.
We push off making a choice, even it when it costs us money, energy, or time.

When we see options disappearing, even unexciting options, the immediate threat of loss makes those options seem big and important.

The antidote to delay is focusing on the consequences of not deciding.
Every delay is a decision.
Every delay has consequences.

We lose many opportunities because we delay making decisions.

3 comments to Freedom to be Irrational?

  • Oh my, there’s so much to this post! Each of these paragraphs could go on for a week, and I’d read every word. It’s about being free to make mistakes, to make decisions without fear of mistakes, to agree to make it “okay” to reverse course (we saw that with “The Bachelor” this last week – and I think it was a good lesson for us all – how much hatred he generated for changing his mind, I think mostly because we don’t make it okay for ourselves to do this – even though we DO!). Please write more about all of this – decision-making is so especially difficult for us women. We need to be able to separate out our masculine and feminine energies, and still let our intuition infuse our decision-making. Very complex when you’re just learning to do this, very easy 9I imagine) once you get the hang of it and practice with small things. Thank you, Sarah

  • Fantastic. Clear vision,clearer simple words.I am blown over.It was a fantastic read and a very valuable insight gained.Thanks!

  • OMG! This one of the best blogs ever. Fantastic writing, Joel. Keep it up!

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