How much choice do consumers really have?

Source: Pexels

Philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris argues that we don’t control our choices. As consumers, we are driven to choices of timing with events like Black Friday deals, or post-Christmas sales. We are even driven to the ‘what’ we should buy through clever advertising and social media influencers.

How far does this lack of choice extend? All the way to death.

New research by Dr. Scott Halpern, of the University of Pennsylvania suggests framing can also affect the biggest decision of all. What to do at end of life.

Terminally ill patients are given a choice of life extension (feeding tubes, chemo etc) or comfort care.

  1. 1/3 of the patients were offered comfort care as the default tick on an electronic form. And 77% chose comfort care.
  2. 1/3 were not given a default. 66% chose comfort care
  3. 1/3 were presented with life extension as the default tick box and only 44% chose comfort care.

The default tick impacted an end-of-life decision.

Being ethical, the researchers then explained the randomly assigned defaults yet only 2 of the 132 respondents changed their minds. 

Everyone in sales should remember the impact of subtle signals and framing. Words matter. Presentation matters.

You’ll probably buy the first paint recommended at the hardware store, the first insurance policy offered by an agent, the wine recommended by the sommelier, even the election flyer when it comes to voting.

These subtleties also play out in customer surveys

Subtlety matters.

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