managing consumer behaviour – tip 4

The power of RELATIVE

We have all seen these types of illusions.


These types of illusions tell us two things. Firstly that our eyes deceive us and secondly that we see everything in the context of the surrounding stimuli.

More often that we would like to think, the things we see do not represent the fact or the reality and very often we are not even sure what the reality is. What we do know however is that we see, hear, smell and feel everything in the context of the surrounding environment. Everything is relative.

If you live in Gaza, a week in Bagdad might be a holiday. If you live in Perth, a week in bali might be a holiday, but if you life in Paris you might expect something more. A $250,000 car is no more extravagant for a multi millionaire than a $25,000 car is for an average earner.

The fact is, not only do we see things relative to other stimuli, but it is not possible for us not to see things relative to other stimuli. The illusions above demonstrate this.

Further, there is increasing evidence that the manipulation of the context can be a very effective tool for managing the perception on something. Testing this notion Dan Airley experimented with faces. When asked to indicate a preference for one of two relatively symmetrical faces the men and women gave a very different response than when they were shown three faces – the two symmetrical faces and a third asymmetrical version on one of the original two faces.

When shown the two symmetrical faces( A and B), preferences were around 50/50. When show the asme two faces (A and B) with a third asymmetrical version of face A – no one chose the asymmetrical face, 75% of people chose face A and only 25% of people preferred symmetrical face B.

Setting aside my clumsy explanation, this study, the findings of which have been replicated, demonstrated that the asymmetrical version of the face A drew preferences away from symmetrical face B and towards the symmetrical version of face A. Airley suggest that one of the conclusions of this research might be that when a man goes to a bar looking to score, be should take with him an asymmetrical version of himself.

My conclusion from this study and others like it is that all decisions, all choices and made in a context and managing that context can be a key to managing preferences and responses in general. This can have profound implications in terms of managing human behaviour.

This issue will be discussed in detail on THE D. JOHN CARLSON NETWORK –

John Carlson is a behavioural scientist, strategic planner and lateral thinker focusing on branding, marketing, communication, personal advancement, business development and behaviour management.

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