In her book “Mastermind” Maria Konnikova writes about how our mind is influenced by our environment. This mostly doesn’t happen with our full awareness, but often by our subconsciousness. As an example she points out that universities have a higher apply-rate on sunny days than on rainy days. And of course the place looks more beautiful, feels nicer and warmer when you visit it on a sunny day and thus giving you a better feeling about it. However it doesn’t seem very clever letting the decision of where to study depend on the weather.
This subconscious decision making is the basis of A/B-testing in the web. Obama’s campaign 2008 for example ran this experiment with the website visitors. They tried different subscribe buttons, as well as different videos or pictures above it. It turned out that the most effective combination was a “Learn more”-button alongside a picture of Obama’s family, leading to a much higher subscribing rate than the other options. This shows that somehow a little text and one picture can already change a lot in ourselves, leading us into making a decision, which we maybe wouldn’t make if the text of the button would be different.
Seeing how such simple variations can have such an impact on us, makes me wonder how many decisions I made with the help of such little tricks. Today I’m pretty sure that we all participate in such an experiment every day (although I couldn’t find any numbers yet). But companies are always trying to find the best way to sell their products to us and persuading our subconsciousness by beautiful and friendly looking buttons and pictures that their product is the best. And this seems to achieve the wanted effect very well and efficiently, especially in this era where online shopping grows more and more, making it very easy to run these experiments and finding out what our subconsciousness likes the most.
The mean thing about this is, that the user or buyer doesn’t realize, how he is being influenced. The only thing that we can do to prevent making unwanted decisions is reflecting more about the use of one product before buying it or making a decision. Being aware that you’re probably manipulated by outer influences probably already does half of the job. Reminding yourself of this over and over again makes you think automatically more about your decisions and falling less for the nice environment.
It’s always hard to do so and keep this in mind all the time, since it’s a very hidden manipulation of our feelings and thus never falls to our eyes. We have to think about it actively. But don’t let us make stupid decisions due to our subconsciousness, especially when they are important and better rethink once again before making a final decision, which we may regret some day.