Revealed: Why We Don’t Like Extremes


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When you are making decisions, you carefully consider all the facts and factors that present in a logical and orderly process, right? Not so fast. You rarely make decisions this way—and neither do your customers.

The truth is that psychological principles often influence the decision-making process; you might even say take over. But don’t feel bad that you didn’t know. They happen without your conscious awareness of them.

One example of these psychological principles that significantly affects the outcome of your decisions is Extremeness Aversion. Extremeness Aversion describes the motivation behind many people’s choices. When making decisions, people tend to avoid the outermost edge or ultimate poles of a situation and prefer a compromise or middle position.

Of course, this isn’t always the case. We all know someone who could use a little more “compromise” in their life.

However, for the majority of people most of the time, Extremeness Aversion guides us for how to choose between options in various situations. After all, we have been told since we were small children that the porridge that is too hot or too cold isn’t the best, nor is the chair that is too hard or too soft. And don’t get me started on the beds!

Fairy tale stories are one thing. Real life examples of this concept in action, scientific ones no less, are far more compelling. An example of this concept comes from a study that gave people a choice between two different cameras, a Minolta priced at $170 and a second Minolta with more features at $240. Given a choice, the decision was split between the two cameras, 50-50. Next, the researchers added a super-premium Minolta priced at $470.

When the third option was present, what should have happened? If people’s preferences for cameras are distributed in as they were in the first set of choices (between the two options), then the more expensive camera option should have resulted in fewer people choosing the middle camera priced at $270. But that isn’t what happened. Instead, more people chose the middle camera option; its share of the division rose to 57% with the remainder split between the other two camera options.

Extremeness Aversion has applications in everyday purchases, too. In another study at Duke University, researchers had people go on a “virtual road trip.” Part of the exercise was to make virtual meal choices along the way. Researchers didn’t care what people chose to eat, but they wanted to know how their participants chose drinks. There were three drink options, small, medium, and large, but the sizes of each were randomly changed throughout the trip. So, at one restaurant the small was 16 oz. and the large was 30 oz., and at another restaurant, the small would be 24 oz. and the large would be 55 oz., and so on.

What they found was that despite the size of the cup there was a strong preference for the medium size at all the restaurants. People were indifferent to the size of the medium; they just wanted to order the medium-sized option, whatever it may be.

I understand this thinking; I am exactly this person. Whenever I get something done around the house, I always get three quotes. I never go with the highest one or the lowest one. I always go for the one in the middle. I always think the lowest one is too cheap and therefore, there must be something wrong with it. And the highest one, I assume that’s just someone who is a “profiteer” or whatever. So, 90% of the time I go for the one in the middle.

Naturally, this choosing of the middle option does not always happen. There are cases where you seek out the lowest price available for a product or service and other times when you want the highest quality you can get. However, in the cases where you don’t have a strong preference, there exists a natural tendency for something that is moderate or a compromise.

To learn more about Extremeness Aversion and how it influences your Customer Experience, please click here.

When it comes to your Customer Experience, how your customers decide to buy should be of great importance to your experience design. Understanding how they think and how that thinking influences their behavior is the key to getting them to do what you want, which, ostensibly, is buy more of your products and services. Ensure that you have designed into your options a win-win at the moderate level and you could get exactly that.

Can you relate to Extremeness Aversion? Does it affect your decision making?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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