Customers - the biased decision-makers

Have you ever wondered to which degree you do control your purchasing decisions when shopping in the supermarket? This answer will surprise and possibly offend you!

2019.03.21 | Merete Elmann

In the past decades, researchers in the behavioural sciences have tried to understand how consumers allocate their attention when making purchasing decisions. The finding is that consumers make purchasing decisions in environments that are overloaded with information - and the way of coping is to ignore most of the information.

To address this issue, MAPP researchers reviewed the visual biases that determine consumers’ decision making and showed that regardless of the means of presenting information to consumers, choices are always influenced by the environment. In other words, there is no neutral way of presenting information that does not bias consumer attention.

Every time we go shopping, our decisions are influenced by visual factors unrelated to our goals. For example, we may want to find the best product for the money, but our ability to find such a product depends the size, salience, position and number of information elements. We only choose what we see, not what we do not see. This means consumers are much more likely to choose products that are easily seen, for example because they are positioned on the middle of the shelf and more noticeable than their competitors.

The existence of these visual biases has practical implications for public policy makers. Since consumer decisions are not based only on consumers’ preference, but also on how information is presented, making additional information available can be used to promote healthy or sustainable choices.

In conclusion, by understanding visual biases and their impact on consumer decisions, information can be strategically presented to achieve policy goals that lead to more healthy and sustainable choices.


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