Justin Koufopoulos – Apr 17th, 2015

We like to think of ourselves as highly rational beings, capable of sound judgement even under duress. Though we may take into account facts or others’ opinions, ultimately our choices are our own.

The reality however is a little different. Our decisions and frameworks of logic are tiny rafts, floating on a sea of biological programming and psychological influences and conditioning.

As a marketer and researcher, I have studied cognitive biases and the ways ideas can spread. In the below collection of studies, I highlight some of my favorite examples of how external factors can shape decision making, and the most important lessons marketers can glean from them.

1. We are susceptible to the halo effect.

It’s a common piece of advice that first impressions matter. But, why do they matter so much? We judge more attractive people to be healthier, friendlier and more competent than less attractive people – even less guilty in cases where they break the law. Interestingly enough, the halo effect influences both of these judgements.

The research: Undergraduate students were asked to rate a series of essays written by a classmate of the opposite gender. These essays varied in quality; some were well-written, others were poorly written. The students were then presented with a photo that was meant to be the author. One third of students were given a photo of an attractive classmate, one third an unattractive classmate, and the other third received no photo.

Demonstrating the power of the halo effect, the students rated the more attractive writer as significantly better than the unattractive writer.

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