Oct 15, 2021
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.
- [00:07] In today’s episode I’m
introducing you to Dr. Eric J. Johnson, author of the brand new
book, The Elements of
- [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
- [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
- [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
- [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
- [32:26] One study is not enough
to actually build a science. We need to do cross
- [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
- [39:26] The decisions of our
privacy and cookies are decisions we make multiple times a
- [40:32] Choice
architecture and designers have amazing influence. Hopefully,
people will design in ways they want to be designed
- [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
- [46:16] Melina shares her
- [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 Amazon, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, and
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