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Decisions, decisions: The way we express a decision alters the outcome

Research in neuroscience, psychology, business and economics tells us that a plethora of influences can alter the decisions we make. The author explored some of these factors in a Worldview Stanford course and wrote about them in a Stanford story package, Decisions, Decisions. This post is part of a series on what she learned. 


Given a choice of possible snacks, you'd think that you would make a decision and that would be that: Twix or banana. Done.

But Jonathan Levav, PhD, an associate professor of marketing in the Stanford Graduate School of Business, has found that the way we express our decision changes the very nature of what we decide. In my story about his work, I describe the findings of Levav and his collaborators:

Confronted with a well-stocked vending machine, your brain may say "Twix," but your hand is more likely to push a button associated with the healthier fruit snack. Your hand reveals your good intentions, but if asked to state your preference, your mouth is more likely to name your impulse - the candy bar.

When the researchers had people speak their preferences into a vending machine, people consistently chose higher calorie snacks. This finding held true when people were asked to either speak or push a button to choose a dessert in a restaurant.

Levav also found interesting differences between choices that people make on a computer versus on an iPad. It turns out we are all more hedonistic when on an iPad.

If you want healthier snacks, make your selection manually. And if you want to spend less, customize your new car on a computer - not a tablet.

Previously: Decisions, decisions: How our decision making changes with age
Photo by Shutterstock

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