Mind Over Potato Chip

Logic tells us to make comparisons to get the best deal in goods and services – but it doesn’t always work that way. That’s because of the weird way our brains make mountains out of molehills. 

The Potato Chip Study

Consider a study by Morewedge et al. (2010). Participants were asked to predict how much they would enjoy a potato chip. Half the participants were in a room that also happened to contain other superior snacks like a luxurious chocolate bar; others were in a room with inferior snacks, like sardines and spam. 

People in the room with the superior snacks thought they’d enjoy the chip less than those in the room with the inferior snack. They were wrong. In fact they liked the snacks exactly the same, no matter the surrounding snacks. 

Here’s the moral: when you enjoy whatever you choose, you’re mostly not comparing it with other options: you enjoy it for what it is. Comparisons mess with your mind. 

Agonizing Over Small Differences

 When we go to buy a car, a house or a snack we tend to make a big deal out of the differences between similar products. We notice that this car is faster, or this house is slightly bigger, or this chocolate bar is bigger. In reality the differences in our enjoyment are much smaller than we imagine; maybe no more than a hill of beans.

If you’re the kind of person that really sweats over their comparison shopping, then take note. This research suggests: don’t bother, let it go, it won’t matter. Sure, get the lowest price for the same goods or service, but don’t go crazy choosing between models or features, it really won’t make that much difference.

Thanks to PsyBlog for the article.

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