Think in decision layers, make risks vivid & more
Here’s a famous story among persuasion researchers and Malcolm Gladwell fans:
When a researcher offered shoppers 24 types of jam, many customers stopped by for a sample, but only 3% made a purchase. But when the researcher offered only six kinds, 30% of shoppers ended up buying jam.
“When people had too many choices, they just walked away,” says Sheena Iyengar, the researcher and author of The Art of Choosing.
Iyengar, a business professor at Columbia University, studies how people make decisions. When it comes to options, her research shows again and again, less is almost always more.
Avoid overwhelming people.
People are also overwhelmed by the amount of information it takes to make decisions about:
401(k) plans. In a study for Vanguard, Iyengar found that for every 10 funds a company added to its options, the number of employees enrolling dropped by 2%. With two options, 75% of employees participated; when there were 59 funds, only 60% enrolled.
“If it’s a lot of work to choose among the funds, many people will postpone the decision and never sign up,” she says.
Medicare plans. When seniors had to choose a Medicare prescription drug benefit, they were overwhelmed by dozens of similar options. In the end, some 10% of seniors didn’t enroll by the deadline, even though it meant they’d have to pay extra to enroll late.
The problem, Iyengar says: “The program designers focused primarily on giving people quantity but not on quality.”
Health care plans. One of the most complex decisions we ask consumers to make is to choose among health insurance plans.
It’s not uncommon for consumers to have to compare more than 15 plans on each of 10 to 12 factors. And integrating different types of information and different types of variables makes decision-making even harder, according to researchers (Payne, Bettman and Johnson, 1993; Slovic, 1995).
Rev Up Readership
Read it and weep. More than half of all Americans have basic or below basic reading skills, according to the DOE’s latest adult literacy test.
To reach all of your readers, wherever they are, please join me at Rev Up Readability — our two-day clear-writing workshop on April 1-2, 2020, in Austin, Texas. You’ll learn to make every piece you write easier to read and understand.
That means they can sign forms, compare ticket prices for two events and look up shows in a TV guide. But they have trouble finding places on a map. Can’t calculate the cost of office supplies from a catalog. Are unable to compare viewpoints in two editorials.
How well are you doing reaching these folks with your messages?
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