Quick, Think!

How much do you think about a purchase before making it? Do you dive right in or take the time to analyze everything? Regardless, impulsivity or critical thinking, we all start with the same processes. Let’s say you’re looking for your next vehicle, there are two processes that occur during consumerism: thin-slicing or priming. Thin-slicing, or taking a small portion of the experience and using that to make accurate judgments, is used in conjunction with “an identifiable and stable pattern” to make decisions (Gladwell, 2005, p. 29). As Gladwell (2005) states:

“We thin-slice because we have to, and we come to rely on that ability because there are lots of hidden fists out there, lots of situations where careful attention to the details of a very thin slice, even for no more than a second or two, can tell us an awful lot” (p. 44).

From Gladwell’s point of view, thin-slicing is an innate ability that we utilize every single day to make decisions. Our experiences start to shape patterns that help us to thin-slice. If I arrive at the car dealership and receive horrible customer service from the moment I walk in, that portion or “slice” is enough to make a judgement — I should not buy from this dealer because this is a precedent as to ho I will be treated as customer in the future. In addition, priming plays a huge role on consumerism, which can work for or against producers. For instance, after being primed with negative ideas abut the quality of cars produced by Ford and the great quality of Chevrolet, I am inclined to seek a dealer with Chevrolet cars. Gladwell (2005) states that the following happens during priming:

“Your unconscious, in this sense, was acting as a kind of mental valet. It was taking care of all the minor mental details in your life. It was keeping the locked door tabs on everything going on around you and making sure you were acting appropriately, while leaving you free to concentrate on the main problem at hand” (p. 59–60).

Priming leads to decision making because it allows us to concentrate on making that specific decision without being distracted by outside factors. Also, If I am primed to believe that Chevrolets will last for years and years, I can focus on other aspects of purchasing that Chevy that are not specific to the producer (i.e. monthly payment and annual percentage rate). Priming essentially makes it easier to make decisions because it allows us to focus on the tedious details.

Priming eliminates having too many choices as well. As Barry Schwartz (2005) stated, having too many choices is actually negative. Why? Too many choices lead to delayed purchasing. You become paralyzed and start to analysis every option (Schwartz, 2005). Too many choices also leads to less satisfaction after you finally make a decision (Schwartz, 2005). The fear of missing out begins to kick in and you wonder if your new Subaru is missing features that a new Hyundai or Cadillac might have.

References for Information Sources

Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. New York, NY: Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Company.

Schwartz, B. (2005, July). Barry Schwartz: The paradox of choice [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice

References for Media Sources

Graphic of Option A vs. B retrieved from: http://www.everydayinterviewtips.com/5-key-steps-for-difficult-decision-making-show-that-you-can-apply-them/

Graphic of multiple choices retrieved from: http://www.storebrands.info/research-and-data/store-brand-insights/consumer-insight/too-many-choices-could-equate-fewer-purchases

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