Availability Bias – The Stories in Our Brains
Do people predict things based on careful reasoning? Can recently heard stories cause faulty predictions and decisions? Cognitive biases affect our predictions of outcomes. We like to think that we take all factors into consideration before making choices. Neuroscience and psychological research shows that our predictions and choices are often based on faulty information. People typically act based on the information they have immediately available. Our fast-thinking emotional brain doesn’t consider all possible options. Instead, it decides quickly and often makes errors.
We Estimate Answers to Complex Problems
Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, with Amos Tversky, did research on how people predict outcomes. In one study, they asked subjects to estimate the answer to multiplication problems. They presented a series of numbers to be multiplied.
The answers are the same. Few people can do those calculations in their heads. Those who saw the series beginning with 1 predicted much lower totals than the subjects who saw the series that began with 8. Estimates were based on multiplying the first two or three numbers. An easy partial solution affected their guesses.
We Give More Weight to Widely Available Information
Are you more likely to be killed by a shark attack or by parts falling from an airplane? Your answer depends on the news you hear. Shark attacks get intensive news coverage. Falling plane parts do not. So, most people worry more about shark attacks, while more actually die from falling parts. Similarly, extensive news coverage about child abductions causes parents to overestimate that risk. We make many decisions based on the information that is most easily available. In marketing, the availability bias can be used to influence consumer decisions in several ways:
- Use Stories to Make New Information Available – When marketing products or services, tell visitors stories that show how they solve a problem. Identify common problems your customers experience and demonstrate the solution. Testimonials from existing customers are a great way to do this and add social proof to the presentation. Start with the pain and end with the relief. It’s a sure-fire way to grab attention and focus it on your offers.
- Set up Expectations of Satisfaction – What do your potential customers need? All marketing is based on filling needs. Again, you can provide fresh information that depicts satisfaction of those needs. For example, homebuyers need furnishings to enhance their new homes. Wayfair, the online furnishing company features photos of completely decorated rooms full of their products. Shoppers can simply click the images to buy any or all items.
- Eliminate Visitors’ Fears and Concerns – Worries lead many potential customers and clients to search online for solutions. A financial planning firm, for example, can use stories to provide information on successful retirement strategies. A heating and air conditioning company can show how their furnace inspections protect against carbon monoxide risks. Car dealers can ease the fear of breakdowns with new models and repair services.
- Help Customers Predict Successful Outcomes – If information you offer online helps people envision a good outcome from your products and services, you’re halfway to making the sale. Show your customers what they can expect to get, through stories, illustrations, and emotional triggers. Once they are primed with positive expectations, you’ll have their attention on the details of what you offer.
Cognitive Biases Work Together in Most Decisions
The availability bias is just one of the brain anomalies that influence consumer decision-making. Success with neuromarketing comes through understanding and using a full range of emotional brain tendencies. It’s not enough to simply focus on one technique. Instead, every web page, social media strategy and online advertising campaign needs to weave together a brain-aware combination. Then you can attract, retain, educate and convert potential customers for revenue-producing sales. As the leading neuromarketing, web design and SEO firm in the Twin Cities metro area, we bring it all together to help you outsmart the competition.