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What is behavioral economics? Why does it matter to you?

Podcast Episodes

What is behavioral economics? Why does it matter to you?

174. The Elements of Choice, with Dr. Eric J. Johnson

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A few months ago, in episode 162 you got to hear from Leidy Klotz about his fantastic new book Subtract, which is based on this question of why we humans look to add first when often subtracting can be a better option. It is a little bit of minimalism/essentialism and a really great episode to help people overcome loss aversion and see that, as he says, “less is not a loss,” such a cool insight.
Anyway, while he and I were doing our pre and post-interview chat, he mentioned that his friend and colleague Eric Johnson had a book coming out soon called The Elements of Choice and that I should talk with him about it, so here we are. Dr. Johnson is not a newbie to the space by any means, as you will hear in the interview. He has had the opportunity to work and train with some of the most notable names in the field, including Herbert Simon, Amos Tversky, as well as his friends Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. He is the Norman Eig Professor of Business and the Director of the Center for Decision Sciences at Columbia Business School. He has been the president of both the Society for Judgment and Decision Making and the Society for Neuroeconomics. He has decades of experience and definitely knows his stuff, which is one of the many reasons I was so honored to chat with him and share the conversation with you.

Show Notes:

  • [00:07] In today’s episode I’m introducing you to Dr. Eric J. Johnson, author of the brand new book, The Elements of Choice.
  • [03:57] Eric shares his background and how he got into the field. His research has always been about helping people make choices and how the way we present information to them affects their choices. 
  • [05:40] He was fascinated with the choices he observed people making. 
  • [07:06] Eric shares research from a former student of his. She implemented the health records systems at a major New York hospital. 
  • [09:18] Memory played an important role in the doctor’s behavior in her research.
  • [11:31] When you put in the time to plan the architecture upfront, the actual intention itself can be very small. Designers often have more influence than they realize.
  • [12:42] He shares his research about taking different doors at the Copenhagen airport.
  • [14:06] Little bits of effort at the beginning of the decision have an influence throughout the course of the decision. Choice architecture usually works by favoring one path over another. 
  • [16:10] If I know exactly what you want I would give you just one option, but the person making the choice knows a lot about themselves so they often know more about what they want.  
  • [18:10] There is a trade-off between how much you are asking of people (in terms of deciding) and how much variety you need to give them so they can find the option that is best for them. 
  • [20:45] Choice is not determined by myself and my preferences alone. 
  • [21:38] We are all designers all the time. 
  • [23:14] Order will have an influence depending on your medium. There are many other things as a designer to think about also. 
  • [24:50] Defaults are powerful. Eric and Dan Goldstein researched defaults in organ donations. 
  • [27:07] Not all situations are the same, so you really need to look across all the studies and understand your own situation and context. 
  • [28:44] Our preferences aren’t written in stone. We have many preferences. Depending on what comes to mind, I might make different choices. 
  • [29:36] Eric shares one of his favorite studies where they ask people about climate change and would they pay a carbon tax (or carbon offset) to fight climate change. 
  • [32:26] One study is not enough to actually build a science. We need to do cross studies.
  • [35:16] Eric shares how choice architecture can affect COVID vaccinations. 
  • [38:00] Defaults work because they endow you with the option. You think less about the disadvantages.
  • [39:26] The decisions of our privacy and cookies are decisions we make multiple times a day. 
Choice architecture and designers have amazing influence. Hopefully, people will design in ways they want to be designed to. Click To Tweet
  • [41:46] Melina shares a study about trying to influence people to take the stairs instead of riding the elevator. 
  • [43:31] Defaults are everywhere. They save us effort by not having to make a decision every time.  
  • [46:16] Melina shares her closing thoughts.
  • [47:44] The more you know about someone, the fewer choices you can provide to them. When you have no idea who your customer is – what they like, what the context is of them finding you, why they are there, what needs they are looking to fill or problems they need to solve, you then have to present a whole bunch of choices, which can make it harder for them to make a decision.
  • [50:33] Melina’s award-winning first book, What Your Customer Wants and Can’t Tell You is available on AmazonBookshop, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, and Booktopia.

Thanks for listening. Don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Android. If you like what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes and share what you liked about the show. 

I hope you love everything recommended via The Brainy Business! Everything was independently reviewed and selected by me, Melina Palmer. So you know, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. That means if you decide to shop from the links on this page (via Amazon or others), The Brainy Business may collect a share of sales or other compensation.

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