Jargon Watch: Choice Blindness

I’ve always wanted to understand how consumers don’t have a higher level of dissatisfaction when they go home with the supermarket’s own brand goods as a mistake instead of a branded product. (This is the the reason why Tesco, ASDA et al will often have rows of branded goods in the middle of similar looking own brand products, the own-brand products have a higher profit margin for the supermarkets).

New Scientist talks about the phenomena of Choice Blindness in Choice blindness: You don’t know what you want by Lars Hall and Petter Johansson (April 18,2009):

…in an early study we showed our volunteers pairs of pictures of faces and asked them to choose the most attractive. In some trials, immediately after they made their choice, we asked people to explain the reasons behind their choices.

Unknown to them, we sometimes used a double-card magic trick to covertly exchange one face for the other so they ended up with the face they did not choose. Common sense dictates that all of us would notice such a big change in the outcome of a choice. But the result showed that in 75 per cent of the trials our participants were blind to the mismatch, even offering “reasons” for their “choice”.

We called this effect “choice blindness”, echoing change blindness, the phenomenon identified by psychologists where a remarkably large number of people fail to spot a major change in their environment.

I find it facinating that people will even justify their ‘wrong’ decision.