Dan Ariely, a famed behavioral economics professor at Duke University, conducted an experiment on our control over the choices we make; or lack of in this case.

Economist magazine offered subscriptions with an erroneous price for Print Subscription. Print and Print + Web were the same price.

ariely - are we in control of our decisions 1

When Economist realized its mistake, the price was fixed. Ariely decided to see which choice most people would make, so he offered this as an experiment to MIT students.

ariely - are we in control of our decisions 2

Happily, no one chose the middle option. However, if there is an option that nobody wants, you omit it, right? So, Ariely conducted the experiment again, but without the middle option and the results are nearly flipped.

ariely - are we in control of our decisions 3

Even though the middle option (Print Subscription) was useless in that no one wanted it, it was extremely important because it helped people understand what they wanted relative to the other choices. Print alone for $125 made Print & Web also for $125 look like a fantastic deal.

It’s arguable that consumers are not in control of their decisions because of the many external factors that influence choice. In this case, you actually want to have an unfavorable package(s) to make the other one(s) look good.

Reference: Ariely, D. (2014) Dan Ariely asks, Are we in control of our decisions? TED YouTube.


Ariely is not the only one who utilizes this strategy. Trader Joe’s in Union Square NYC plays the same game. Which set of eggs are you going to buy?

ariely trader joes eggs

Wait. What? This circles back to the title of Ariely’s topic, Are We in Control of Our Decisions?

Did you pick the jumbo? Maybe not all of you, but most of you probably did. This is not Jedi mind control. This is psychology. Want to learn how to do the same? Check out the book here or read other sections below.

Other Sections

Your traveling friend,

Lawrence Chan

P.S. I love eggs. Do you like eggs? If so, what is your favorite way to eat them?

Read more about this rewritten 2nd edition pricing e-book HERE.

Or …

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