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Lately, I’ve been focusing my thinking on choice after reading The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar. (She’s the lady who set up the famous ‘jam experiment’ that demonstrated that less choice (in this case in jars of jam) led to higher volumes of purchase.)

Here are some nuggets from the book you might find interesting…
“As we form and express our identity [through our choices] we need others to see us as we see ourselves."  

We use our choices to develop a social identity. We will make choices that fit with our sense of self even when they aren’t in our interests or what we want. Seeming consistent is a powerful driver of behaviour. We use choice to develop a narrative about the ‘type’ of person we are, and then we believe our own story about ourselves. 
“The effectiveness of priming lies in its subtlety, not its strength, so it affects our choices on the margins rather than causing us to act against our strongly held beliefs."

Our brains work at the non-conscious level making connections and associations with previous experiences.  This makes us susceptible to priming because positive associations (happiness, positivity, strength, for example) can be attached to products and brands so that we are pre-disposed to prefer them.  We like to behave consistently with our values, but we don’t always know what we think or prefer – this is where priming comes in…
“People who are given a moderate number of options (4 to 6) rather than a large number (20-30), are more likely to make a choice, are more confident in their decisions, and are happier with what they choose."

These are the findings from the Iyengar’s jam study. According to her less can be more in terms of actual choice, although a sense of abundance and freedom to choose is important. Our instinct is to want to choose, even though we can be overwhelmed by choices when we get to them. HOWEVER not everyone agrees with Iyengar. Take a look at this three minute video on choice from Braincraft (I love this weekly blog by the way)  and you’ll see that no one has been able to replicate Iyengar’s findings in experiments on choice. So maybe more can be more?
Choice hierarchies that help people to narrow choices into categories will ultimately make lots of choices easier to cope with.  

More categories with fewer choices within them are easier for people to choose from. Creating categories in busy supermarket shelves is a customer-friendly way to help shoppers cut through choices – as long as there aren’t too many choices within categories. Choice hierarchies also help with decision fatigue – so complex decisions should be chunked up for consumers.

“Reactance” is the term for the (negative) emotional response we have to prohibition.

When we feel thwarted or overly controlled we will act out. Giving people wriggle room, or a sense of choice, or reframing restrictions so they don’t feel like restrictions will help people feel better. For example, health plans which deliver ‘preferred providers’ feel better than those that force customers to choose from a ‘restricted list’.
The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwarz

Try The Rational Animal by Douglas T Kendrick

Or I’ll have what she’s having by Alex Bentley, Mark Earls and Michael J O’Brien (which is about social influence)
Check out this video montage of a fridge eye's view of the world. As recommended by designer Daniel Benneworth-Grey in his blog Grey/ Twenty Three.
This month I’ve been re-visiting two favourite topics: 1. behavioural economics 2. The secrets behind good qualitative research. I have presentations prepared on both topics and have been out and about speaking to ASDA and Langlands. If you’d like me to share my thinking with you, do get in touch!
Qual St thanks this month go to:
Ingrid Wiese at Kerry for introducing Qual Street and Ink to your BSM team

Sandra Hand for being my right hand woman whilst I’m on holiday
Harp at Studio HB